Saturday, January 07, 2012

Time for Labour to turn to its own 'Iron Lady?'

And so the new political year begins moreorless exactly where the old one left off…with Labour leader Ed Miliband’s long-term survival prospects once more being called into question.

The run-up to Christmas saw growing unease in Labour ranks over Mr Miliband’s failure to make more headway against David Cameron’s Coalition government, in what seemed like the beginnings of a whispering campaign.

Now that the season of goodwill is over, however, the muttering has broken out into the open, with Labour peer and former adviser Lord Glasman claiming that this week that the Labour leader has "no strategy and little energy."

And yesterday’s warning by Shadow Defence Secretary and leading Blairite Jim Murphy that Labour must have “genuine credibility” on spending cuts is being seen as another shot across Mr Miliband’s bows.

Lord Glasman’s comments were significant not so much in themselves as for the fact that they played into what is fast developing into an over-arching narrative about Mr Miliband’s leadership.

Perhaps his most telling point was on the economy, on which he said: “We have not won, and show no signs of winning, the economic argument…we have not articulated a constructive alternative capable of recognising our weaknesses in government and taking the argument to the coalition.”

He added: “Old faces from the Brown era still dominate the shadow cabinet and they seem to be stuck in defending Labour's record in all the wrong ways."

That was a clear reference to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, whose presence in that post is viewed by some as an insuperable obstacle to Labour’s attempts to regain economic credibility.

The ‘credibility’ question was also clearly uppermost in Mr Murphy’s mind as he spoke out the spending cuts issue in a national newspaper article yesterday.

Mr Murphy, who ran South Shields MP David Miliband’s leadership campaign, was ostensibly talking about defence, but the wider message was clear – that Labour needs to stop opposing every government spending cut for the sake of it.

Mr Miliband’s difficulties were compounded yesterday by a leaked memo from his press secretary Tom Baldwin claiming, somewhat absurdly, that he had led Labour to “probably the best recovery of any opposition party in history.”

And he caused himself further embarrassment by referring to the late Bob Holness as the host of ‘Blackbusters’ in a Twitter post as ill-advised as some of Gordon Brown’s YouTube appearances.

So having spent the last year trying to shed the hated ‘Red Ed’ tag, could this be the year when Mr Miliband becomes ‘Dead Ed?’

Well, it is interesting on this score is to see what some of the leading Blairite commentators are saying.

Although a lot of people in the party still believe the wrong Miliband was chosen as leader, there appears to be no great clamour for David to ride to the party’s rescue.

Instead, some of his former supporters seem to be latching onto the Brownite Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper as Mr Miliband’s most likely replacement.

Take this, for instance, from The Independent’s John Rentoul, perhaps the most influential Blairite in the ranks of the commentariat.

He wrote: “Yvette Cooper could have won in 2010, had she not said that the time was not right for her and supported her husband, Ed Balls, instead. If she is clever, the Brownites and Blairites could unite behind her. “

Or this from Dan Hodges, a former Blairite insider and special adviser who now blogs for the Daily Telegraph.

He quoted a Shadow Cabinet source as saying: “Yvette’s the next leader of the party. The only question is whether it’s before the election or after.”

For my part, there is no doubt in my mind that Yvette Cooper is the potential Labour leader which the Coalition fears most.

Mr Cameron already has a ‘problem’ with women voters – some would say with women in general – and he could not get away with patronising the redoubtable Ms Cooper in the way he has tried to do with other female MPs.

The long-awaited release of the Margaret Thatcher biopic yesterday may well focus attention on why the Labour Party has so far failed to find its own ‘Iron Lady.’

Could this be the year they finally put that right?

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1 comment:

Toque said...

Paul, you've sunk to a new low. Yvette Cooper, really? With Balls as her chancellor I suppose.