25 June 2007

The Labour Deputy Leadership Contest 10th May-24th June 2007

The Labour Deputy Leadership Contest has expired in a veritable volcano of excitement and Hollywood-style pizzazz with the news that Harriet Harman (you know ... that one ... who did ... that thing ... or maybe I've mixed her up with someone else) has been chosen to succeed John Prescott as Deputy Leader of the party, a role - alongside the Deputy Prime Ministership - in which Mr Prescott made such an unforgettable contribution to British life, or at least to the lives of tabloid editors in need of a front page filler.

Though it felt to many political journalists and most of the long-suffering electorate that The Contest began several years past, in fact the campaign to find a new Deputy Leader commenced only a little over six weeks ago as, following Tony Blair's announcement made at the point of Gordon Brown's gun of his departure from office, Mr Blair's court jester loyal deputy, John Prescott announced his own decision to end his long fight against the English language and egg-throwing farmers poverty and injustice and park his two Jags stand down.

In the absence of a democratic election to find a successor to the Prime Minister, The Labour Deputy Leadership Contest became the most talked-about media event since Big Brother – although sadly the nation was not given the option to express its preference by text or evict any of the candidates.

The six candidates, Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful and Dopey Hilary Benn, Hazel Blears, John Cruddas, Peter Hain, Harriet Harman and Alan Johnson, took their positions at the starting line for this political Wacky Race, and were off…! For the next six weeks the six candidates jockeyed for position as they fought for the votes in the great political arenas of our nation – MySpace, Facebook and The Daily Mail. By the time on Sunday afternoon the candidates entered the final stretch at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall the entire nation was on the edge of its seat – desperately waiting for the EastEnders omnibus to start.

The three-way electoral college with preferential voting – allowing Labour MPs, party members and trade unions to express their preference in a nail-biting finish of sufficient mathematical complexity to require the services of the whole of the Massachussets Institute of Technology and Carol Vorderman – saw candidates drop out of The Contest quicker than British tennis players at Wimbledon. The first to depart was Hazel Blears, who was excluded from the second round after both failing to meet the minimum height restriction and it being discovered that she was in fact being remotely controlled by a Mr T Blair of Downing Street. She was swiftly followed by Peter Hain, whose orange skin and tragic attempts to dance to the left, then right and back again had led many Labour members to assume he had mistaken the Deputy Leadership contest for an even-less-edifying-than-usual episode of Britain's Got Talent. Next to fall was Hilary Benn, who failed to pass muster when the electorate realised that yes they did rather like him, but not that much, leaving Mr Benn to return to his home in Festive Road and look froward to new adventures in the Fancy Dress Shop with the mysterious shopkeeper. Soon to follow was John Cruddas, who had made the grave - some might say unforgivable - error of standing for the Deputy Leadership as a Socialist.

Only Alan Johnson and Harriet Harman, were left. With a last-minute surge of re-allocated preferential votes and the vague memory of her having said something about the war in Iraq being poorly managed, Harman surged past the former postie (who had stopped to join some old workmates in a game of keepy-uppy with a parcel marked "FRAGILE") to an overwhelming less-than-1% victory. The country went wild – celebrating long into the night a British victory at last – and Labour’s Deputy Leadership Contest was no more.

The Labour Deputy Leadership Contest was buried at St Indifferent’s Church of the Couldn't Care Less. A moving eulogy was delivered by Harriet Harman who described Mr Prescott as a "very difficult act to follow", perhaps chiefly due to the fact she wouldn't be shagging her secretary, didn’t punch people very often and could string together three words without the first two trying to overtake the last one on the final bend.