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So how did a left-winger get to be chair of the parliamentary Labour party?

John CryerJohn Cryer, left-wing MP for Leyton & Wanstead, was last might declared elected as the new Chair of the parliamentary Labour party. Unanimously. Well, unopposed really. In spite of the fact that he is a member of the Campaign Group of MPs – indeed the son of two former Campaign Group MPs (Bob Cryer, MP for Keighley 1974-83 & Bradford South 1987-94, and Ann Cryer, MP also for Keighley 1997-2010). That he was a serial rebel when Labour was in government. And his journalistic career was at Tribune and the Morning Star.

How does it happen that he is not even opposed in an election to play the crucial role of representing the views of the parliamentary party to the leadership following an election which could again result in coalition discussions? It certainly would not have happened under Tony Blair. He’s not the first left-winger to win the post – Tony Lloyd ousted Ann Clwyd from the post under Blair in the context of the Iraq war – but he is the first to be unopposed since the post was split from the leadership of the party in 1970.

The election was triggered by the retirement of  David Watts who is not standing for re-election in St Helens North and resigned as PLP Chair early precisely in order to ensure that there was a Chair of the PLP in place who was still an MP in case of such an event (there would normally have been an election at the start of the new parliament).

There are several reasons, most of which should encourage the Labour Left:

  1. The Ed Miliband regime is genuinely more inclusive and tolerant than that of other recent leaders.
  2. John Cryer has been a member of the Parliamentary Committee (the backbenchers representative body) for a number of years, most recently as vice-chair and would have been seen by many as a natural successor.
  3. He’s a long-standing member of the trade union group of MPs (he worked for ASLEF and the TGWU/Unite between his two periods as an MP) which is still a very influential bloc in the parliamentary party. Many of his predeccessors have been from a trade union background including Dave Watts (2012-15), Doug Hoyle (1992-97), and Stan Orme (1987-92).
  4. He’s an very affable, engaging bloke who can pull in support from places other left candidates might find it harder to reach.

Still, it remains surprising in a place so full of politically-motivated people with big egos and little self-restraint that no-one stood against him.

When trade union lawyer and Labour national executive member Ellie Reeves (to whom John is married) was last elected, doing very much better than other candidates on the Progress and Labour First slates, I said she “will have benefitted from some trade union and centre-left support” adding in parentheses that “she is married to left-wing MP, John Cryer“. I meant that merely as a related point of note rather than implied causality (though I was understandably, I say with hindsight, criticised by some who understood it that way). Whatever minimal political benefit Ellie may have derived from her marriage to John, I think John will have derived rather more in the other direction. Not to mention from having the shadow secretary for work and pensions as a sister-in-law.

Could it have been the result of pressure from the top to avoid a contest? Or maybe it’s just about his engaging smile and bonhomie? Who knows? But even if it has nothing to do with John’s politics, we’re pleased he got the job.

Image credit: photo by Peter Arkell

 

3 Comments

  1. David Pavett says:

    Given that the majority of Labour MPs are a docile lot who will do what the are told to do, and given that most of them are not on the left of the Party I guess that John Cryer got the job because the Party managers do not see it as in any way decisive. All the same, I wish him good luck in his new role.

  2. John reid says:

    Ellie wasn’t on the Progress slate, she also had been on the NEC before and is known becausevof her sister, that’s why she did better than Luke Akehurst or Peter wheeler, also there had to be 3 females, which helped her chances

  3. Robert says:

    Maybe he won it because nobody else wants it and because the job stop these others from concentrating on much more important things like making money.

    I suspect if the job paid £145,000 ministers wages he would not have got near it.

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