OPINION: Let the battle for deputy PM commence

With no Labour leadership election to report, the media’s attention has been drawn to the deputy leadership race and the respective PR teams will make sure there is no shortage of copy.

As PRWeek exclusively reported some months ago, Hilary Benn was the first to appoint a professional external PR outfit – the Croydon-based The Campaign Company – to run his campaign.  TCC very nearly didn’t have a campaign to support as Benn struggled to get enough MPs to back him.   

Peter Hain is also using a public affairs agency: the Welsh-based Morgan Allen Moore, though boss Steve Morgan will claim he’s doing it for nothing given that each candidate has limited expenditure.

The bookies’ favourite is Alan Johnson, surprising given his bid for the job suffered a major setback last week when Alastair Campbell declared his support. Johnson’s team were furious as they have been desperately trying to disassociate their man from Tony Blair. 

At least Campbell isn’t running his campaign – that’s being done by some old pals from Leeds with his special advisor, Mario Dunn, handling the media.

One candidate who can’t distance herself from Blair is Hazel Blears, having been nominated by every known Blairite MP.  Her campaign team includes John Reid’s office with her special advisor Paul Richards handling the media. The role of such special advisors is still unclear with Gordon Brown taking the precaution of not using his. Presumably the others are ‘doing it in their spare time’.

The next Prime Minister’s choice for his deputy, Harriet Harman, has appointed media advisor Scarlet Maguire to handle the fourth estate.  Harriet won’t be short of good advice either as MPs Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper nominated her for the job.

Personally, I’m putting a few bob on 7-1 outsider Jon Cruddas. He was at the heart of Tony Blair’s inner circle for years but has managed to convince everyone he’s the least Blairite of all the candidates. Cruddas has even managed to convince the unions, which is impressive.

The new super union Unite, joining Amicus and the TGWU, hasn’t only provided him with funds, they have provided his campaign team too, and this is easily the most effective of the lot.  The impressive Catherine Bithell has been seconded from the Amicus communications department led by the media-savvy Richard O’Brien.

This will be a very tight race, and the winner will probably be the one who can mop up the most union votes – and only one candidate seems to be taking that seriously.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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