Friday, February 20, 2009

In defence of Mrs Balls

It was fairly predictable that the right-wing blogs would have a field day with yesterday's London Evening Standard story about Yvette Cooper running for Labour leader. Guido describes her as a comedy candidate while Iain comments: "Please let it be true. Pretty please."

For what it's worth, this is what I wrote on Iain's blog:

"It's not in the least absurd. Yvette Cooper is easily the most intellectually capable of all the potential women candidates and it's quite obvious to anyone who knows her that she is capable of being Prime Minister - something that could not be said of Ms Harman.

Yvette is handicapped by the fact that she occupies the most junior position in the Cabinet, and to a lesser extent by the fact that she is seen as junior to her husband, but it should not be forgotten that she has been in the Commons eight years longer than he has.

Her career has been held back thus far for two reasons. Firstly, she had an attack of ME during Labour's first term which hampered her progress up the ministerial ladder. Second, she incurred the emnity of Tony Blair who refused to promote her to the Cabinet even though she was widely regarded as the most able junior minister of her generation.

Now that she has finally made it to the top table, it is entirely proper that she should be talked about as a potential Labour leader. In my view, the party could do a lot, lot worse."

I'm not quite sure why it is that the right has it in for Yvette in a way that it doesn't, for instance, for Hazel Blears or Jacqui Smith. Sure, she can come across as a bit strident on the telly at times, but so did their heroine Mrs T. I personally think Cooper vs Cameron would make a very interesting contest.

One further point about the Standard story which some other bloggers may have missed: it carried the by-line of political editor Joe Murphy, which suggests to me there is probably something in it.

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