Want to know who the most liberal Labour leadership contender is?

Before the election, Lib Dem Voice launched How Authoritarian is your MP?, a website which ranked how authoritarian – or liberal – were MPs in the 2005-10 parliament based on their voting record on 10 key issues. These ranged from ID cards to detention without trial to freedom of speech.

The five candidates for the Labour leadership are now official – so we can now see how their voting record compares, and name the contender who is, officially, the most liberal potential Labour leader …

(NB: if you click on their name you can see how their voting record stacks up).

1. Diane Abbott.

36% authoritarian, 64% liberal.

2. David Miliband.

62% authoritarian, 38% liberal.

3. Ed Miliband.

76% authoritarian, 24% liberal.

=4. Andy Burnham.

83% authoritarian, 17% liberal.

=4. Ed Balls.

83% authoritarian, 17% liberal.

Diane Abbott is the most liberal of the Labour leadership candidates – as a backbencher, of course, she did have the freedom the other candidates lacked to vote against the party whip more regularly. Nonetheless, there were plenty of other Labour backbenchers who willingly voted for their Government’s increasingly authoritarian measures – and in an inner-city constituency such as Diane’s it might have been the easy choice, too. So kudos to her for sticking by her principles.

What’s perhaps surprising is that there is quite a difference between the five candidates. Diane is the only who emerges as more liberal than she is authoritarian. But David Miliband, and to a lesser extent his brother Ed, are markedly less authoritarian than their fellow male rivals, Andy Burnham and Ed Balls. (Though in David’s case at least this might be the result of his absence from key votes while serving as Foreign Secretary).

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  • Chris Keating 10th Jun '10 - 10:32am

    sp. “foreign” in the last line

  • Diane Abbott’s last-minute selection as a Labour candidate was a transparent act of racism and sexism – they didn’t want a leadership contest where ‘everyone looked the same’. If the situation were reversed a white guy decided to stand because 3 black guys happened to be in the leadership race at the time on the basis that he ‘looked different’, he would be dismissed as a racist bigot.

  • Obviously there is more to liberalism than just the votes given here, but it is interesting to see their votes on these topics nonetheless.

  • I’d respect Abbott more if, after her Private School experience, she’d said something like “I’ve learned something from thsisand changed my mind. We need to ensure that state provision reflects the diverse needs of our children, and that some of them will only reach their potential if placed in an environment geared towards academic ability and that provides support and positive role models.”

  • Red Rag – because it signed a coalition agreement to that effect, in order to ensure implementation of other areas of its policy platform.


  • Apparently Ed Balls think that the Tories do not want him as leader… LOL. We both do, very much so 😉

  • Red Rag – one might also ask how come the Labour party supported tuition fees: they had plenty of time in government to get rid of them, but they increased them instead.

  • It doesn’t surprise me that Diane Abbott has the most liberal voting record on civil liberties. Unfortunately she and her fellow Campaign Group MPs support an authoritarian economic agenda of state control, big spending and high taxation, so overall she is a long way from being a liberal.

    I would say David Miliband is the least illiberal and the Ed Balls the most, but I’m not sure that Miliband senior is in tune with the ood of the Labour Party at the moment.

    At the moment I reckon Ed Miliband is the favourite, since he’s grasped that the centre of gravity of the party has moved leftwards in response to the centrist coalition and might make an effective populist leader.

    It will be interesting to see whether David Miliband offers an alternative vision and agenda for how Labour can compete for the centre ground rather than vacate it.

  • @Red Rag some of our MPs have already stated they will defy the whip on tuition fees, I imagine that when the time comes some will = the vast majority.

  • Diane Abbott does seem to have the most agreebale personality of the bunch, and she is a world away from the voices of the Labour left of yesteryear (the Joan Maynards, Frank Allauns and Norman Atkinsons). While she is in favour of a greater role for the state in the economy, she isn’t advocating a command economy of the kind that still exists in North Korea, as much of the Labour Party did as recently as the 1980s. Perhaps the greatest distinction between Diane Abbott and the other candidates is that she is the only one who opposed the Iraq war.

    The result will be fixed by the trade union leaders (they have a third of the vote). No doubt Frank Luntz or his equivalent will be deployed by the media to steer party members in the direction of the candidate favoured in the Virginia country clubs. Whoever wins will be off to Washington with one not so simple question: “What do I do next?”

  • Red Rag – it’s not an excuse, it’s a statement of fact. (And, as others have pointed out, the so-called “progressive” Labour Party didn’t manage to remove them).

  • Diane Abbott does seem to have the most agreebale personality of the bunch

    Nonsense. She has the most annoying personality of the bunch, coming across as the female version of a patronising, strident, John Prescott.

  • Alex Sabine 10th Jun '10 - 2:16pm

    @Sesenco: I agree Diane Abbott is not a Bennite on the economy – she’s more of a populist than an ideological left-winger – but in no way could her views on this quite important subject be described as ‘liberal’. That’s all I meant, in the context of the tag of ‘most liberal Labour candidate’.

  • There is nothing ‘illiberal’ necessarily about higher taxation or public spending. The question is to what ends are they being put. Does it pass the Hobhouse/Rawls/Mill test etc.

  • paul barker 10th Jun '10 - 3:07pm

    As an ex-campaign grouper I can see why Abott is so viscerally anti-LD, we mess with their heads. They find themselves agreeing with us on a lot of issues & yet we are clearly “class enemies”. In practise an Abbott-led Labour might find it easier to make deals with us, precisely because we are on the other side, as they see it.

  • Alex Sabine 10th Jun '10 - 3:07pm

    @ Steve – Well, clearly there can be, or would you say that we would have a more liberal economy with tax and spending at 60-70% of GDP? I agree there’s no ‘magic’ percentage, but I was talking in the context of the UK where state spending already accounts for half of GDP and in some parts of the country for close to 70%…which even most Labour MPs accept is unsustainable.

    But in any case I was thinking more of the belief in central planning and widespread government intervention that the left of the Labour Party is still keen on, which are clearly not ‘liberal’ under any recognisable definition of that word. We’re not talking about managed capitalism of a Keynesian variety.

  • Alex- Sure, sure. But in measuring equality of opportunity, social mobility and other marks of a liberal state, Scandanavia (with a bigger state) does vastly better than the US or Somalia (with much smaller ones). We shouldn’t come off as putting means above liberal ends.

  • David Morton 10th Jun '10 - 4:38pm

    Diane isn’t going to win however she is bad news for the Lib Dems on two levels and the party would be wise to see the significance of what is going on.

    1. While the sort of liberalism tested in this articles “Test” is limited it is a valid and distinct strand of liberalism and its common amongst the sort of voters who have abandoned Labour and now vote Lib Dem as a projection of the sort of Labour party they would like to see. If you add on a double dose of identity politics, her vote against Iraq, her urban seat and general anti politics politician persona she can appeal very, very effectively to a certain sort of ex Labour voter. The fact that Lib Dem activists may find her philosophically alien, as she is, to the party doesn’t mean a small but significant chunk of voters will make the same judgement.

    She is going to get loads of media, drive female and black activism/rejoining of the Labour party and point out very clearly that there is a strand of liberalism that the old New Labour Party abandoned and can gain from moving back towards.

    2. The real significance of her candidacy is that the Labour High Command can see the minor genuis of fiddling with the process to ensure she stands. Its suggests they are slightly ahead of the curve in analazing why the they lost and how they get back. It also shows they are avoiding one of the easiert responses to systemic shock – tribalism. It would have been easy to keep “loony” candidates like her and McConnell of the ballot but they have shown higher emotional intelligence needed to move the tent pegs outwards rather than inwards as a response to defeat.

  • Bill Miller 10th Jun '10 - 5:00pm

    I saw Diane Abbott on Newsnight yesterday. She contrasted herself with the other candidates (and the coalition government) in saying that she would scrap Trident and would not seek an alternative nuclear option. However, more pertinent to this present discussion is that she also talked about the need for Labour to reclaim the civil liberties agenda from the Conservatives.

  • Paul McKeown 10th Jun '10 - 5:16pm

    Diane Abbott liberal?

    Finnish nurses?
    Private education?
    Fair dealing with her constituents and her staff?

    Come on, give us a break. She’s a pharisee. And she hates us, because she believes that we get in the road of her Labour party’s dualistic war with the Conservatives. We believe in plural democracy, she comes from a strand of Labour that believes in an extremely polarised politics in which the “workers” can be persuaded to vote in perpetuity for a red one-party state out of fear of the Tory bogeyman.

    We’ll deal with her if we have to, but let’s not have any illusions about what it is she stands for.

  • I don’t understand about Finnish nurses and private education….. Care to explain??

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 10th Jun '10 - 6:49pm

    Title of post should be ‘who is the most freedom loving contestant’.

    Of course you could also measure them on their support for reducing inequality, on how pro or anti Europe they are, or on the degree of their commitment to pluralism and diversity etc etc (to name but three).

    Come to think of it on any of these (infinitely more important questions…) it would be very interesting to measure the current cabinet !!

  • I couldn’t agree with Paul McKeown’s comments more, he is on the money.

  • Julia Hayward 11th Jun '10 - 10:58am

    The figures prove very little, actually. Ms Abbott excepted, all followed their authoritarian party line without fail as long as they were physically present to do so.

  • It’s a bit like asking who the most anti-racist candidate for BNP leader is.

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