Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Harman Hypothesis

Much comment in the MSM and blogosphere alike today over the leadership chances of Harriet Harman as she stood in for Gordo at PMQS. The Sun reckons she's already plotting to take over, as does Andrew Rawnsley. Mike Smithson on Political Betting rates her chances, but Ben Brogan thinks she's already blown it. Iain Dale suggests Jack Straw could be in on the plot, while a thoughtful Tory perspective comes from new-kid-on-the-blog Alan Collins.

So what do I make of it? Well, if Harriet Harman is seriously being talked about as the answer to Labour's problems, it merely demonstrates the depth of the crisis the party is in.

Harman is political Marmite - she has her very strong admirers among a certain stratum of politically-correct London society - but she is not, and never has been, generally liked by the broader mass of the British public.

This did not really matter when Labour was choosing a deputy leader. The job of deputy is more about reassuring the faithful than reaching out to the uncommitted. But it will matter if and when the party comes to choose a new leader - particularly after their experience with Mr Brown.

I suspect that Harman knows this, and that her comment at PMQs about there not being enough airports for the men who would leave the country if she became PM displayed a certain degree of self-awareness.

Her primary objective in any leadership battle will be, firstly, to hold onto the deputy leadership - a generational shift in the leadership, for instance to David Miliband, could make her a casualty along with Gordon - and to secure the sort of senior role in the next Cabinet that Gordon has denied her.

I suspect her real aim is to be Justice Secretary rather than PM, but letting the speculation ride for a bit will do her no harm in this context, as it underlines her claims to be seen as a "key player" and strengthens her position for the inevitable job bargaining that will accompany a leadership change.

My guess is that she will eventually throw her weight behind the "Anyone but Miliband" bandwagon that appears to be growing and back the candidate most likely to give the Foreign Secretary a run for his money. As things currently stand, that surely means either Straw, or Alan Johnson.

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6 comments:

Toque said...

I realise that she's well educated but she comes across as a bit of a dimwit. And she has all the bearing of a primary school teaching assistant.

And all this stuff about her being English and middle-class...So what?

Barnacle Bill said...

What I watched of PMQs yesterday and HH's performance led me to think she was going mad.
However, on reflection I think she was playing to the "old" Labour MPs sat behind her rather that actually engaging with William Hague.
Which leads me to believe firstly there is going to be a move against Brown before the autumn conference led by Jack Straw.
Secondly that HH was making a stab at securing herself a place in Straw's cabinet - probably his own job.
Otherwise she realizes that with any other contender taking over from Brown she is toast.

Anonymous said...

We need a real left candidate who is against nuclear and for increases in tax on the rich. There is no point changing the leader if it is just for the policies that have got us down.

Gloria De Piero is sexy said...

We do not need to change the leader. We should wait till after the euro and local elections to decide. As what is the point in giving a new leader a recession and hammering in the locals and euros. We would be back to sqaure one.
Even if we do change it should be a real left wing candidate not some right winger. They have had their turn. We can use ther last few years to do extreme left wing stuff, like lock up the royals and increases taxes to 90% on the rich LOL.

Gregg said...

she has her very strong admirers among a certain stratum of politically-correct London society - but she is not, and never has been, generally liked by the broader mass of the British public.

Strictly speaking, that's true, but surely because she isn't known to the broad mass of the British public. The overwhelming majority of voters couldn't pick her out of a line-up and her name means nothing to them. Isn't that a huge advantage over Brown or any other putative Labour leader? Outside of the Labour Party, the only people who are likely to know who she is are some of my fellow IT contractors, still irate at her closing that tax-dodge a few years ago - and we aren't that numerous (thanks to our ridiculously high pay rates).

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