While Liz Kendall could be the Joan the Baptist for Hunt the Age of OSBO is dawning
30 May 2015 at 13:11
If an old hack like me is bored senseless with Labour’s leadership campaign I would imagine that the public are oblivious to it. What is so depressing is the sheer mind numbing banality of it all. Yvette no longer dresses like a nun on holiday, has had personality training and her newly modulated vowels suggests that she attends sessions of Speech Therapists Anonymous. But what does she stand for? Well, she hasn’t been told by the focus groups yet, so she is going to listen, unify, learn lessons and connect. Oh, and provide free child care for all. Or is this just an aspiration? A word that seems like so much in life to mystify Prescott, who probably thinks that he should take a couple of aspirants to clear a headache. But no matter how worthy she is (and you can’t get much more worthy than Yvette whose emotions run the whole gamut of A to B) she has one obvious, toe curling, toxic impediment to victory in her husband whose political ectoplasm will haunt the party for many years to come. Even Ed’s former PPS Andrew Gwynne is a Burnham man which speaks volumes for her chances.
And what about Andy? A sort of fading matinee idol of the left. Once so fluffy and adorable that to slag him off would have been like strangling the Andrex puppy. But during the election he transformed from Labrador to attack dog. A more dishonest and wicked campaign about the NHS that it has ever been my misfortune to witness. He is now settled into the comforting role of Red Len’s lap dog; probably a Shitzu. Dear old Len, an old Tankie preserved not so much in aspic as bitterness envy and bile. When will Andy realise that it is not attractive to the public to be supported by a guy who publicly applauds the government of North Korea. Did I really read that Burnham had actually said that he loves entrepreneurs as much as nurses? If so,his browsing habits will give MI5 hours of amusement. If he wins that really will be the end of Labour. The Blairites (or rather the people who are interested in getting elected) may drift away perhaps to a newly invigorated Liberal Democrat Party. Under Tim Farron? Er, no. Tim is am old fashioned Liberal. Perhaps the orange bookers will form an alliance with the Labour right. Who knows? Who cares?
So what about Liz Kendall? Whereas the other candidates have more baggage than a Heathrow carousel, Liz comes over as fresh and interesting. She may not win an election, but she could be the Joan the Baptist for Tristram Hunt. I really don’t know too much about her, but when I popped into the Strangers bar the other day I bumped into a few cynical old hacks who had seen her perform at the Press Gallery lunch and were pleasantly surprised. At least she wants to win an election. At least she is beginning to come round to the idea that the Labour election campaign was wacky bollocks. I would have thought that the unions would have destroyed her by now. Are they biding their time or do they want her in the field to give Burnham legitimacy at his coronation? It’s a risky strategy because momentum, sheer curiosity and a break with the past could be rather attractive.
To win a leadership election you have to distil in a simple way what the electorate want to hear and persuade backbenchers that you are their best hope of keeping them on the gravy train. Then you have to make a calculation of how much shit the nutters in your party are prepared to eat for a win.
But while Labour rips itself apart Cameron has to secure his legacy which is a smooth transfer of power to George Osborne. Talk about a comeback kid. When he was Shadow Chancellor he was pilloried for being lightweight. His own backbenchers conspired against him and the Tory press gleefully reprinted a collective view (well, of few guys in a bar) that he should be replaced by Ken Clarke. Lesser leaders would have panicked and sidelined him. To his credit Cameron did precisely the opposite. They shared an office so that there could be no doubt that his people were not briefing against him. There is genuine trust between these two. There is an important lesson here which prospective leaders should note. If you fall out with your chancellor over policy it is the beginning of the end for both of you. And then there was steadfast devotion the the economic plan. How Labour laughed. Economists queued up to denounce it, whilst teenage scribblers mocked and urged for a plan B. Even the IMF slagged it off. Lesser men would have considered a U turn which would have been temporarily popular but in the long term disastrous. Even after the omnishambles budget he stuck to the plan. And he was proved right.
The one policy which will be a defining moment in his Chancellorship was the Northern Powerhouse. This is the most outrageous piece of political cross dressing in many years. This should have been a Labour policy. They were totally blind sided. And when it came to giving Manchester the health and care budgets to manage Burnham was so rattled that he condemned it. Utter madness. Now former Commons veteran Tony Lloyd is acting as the transitional Mayor and will be rolling out a Conservative policy which should really have been owned by Labour.
I may be wrong but I wouldn’t be surprised if the July budget parks austerity and replaces it with optimism. Because tax revenues are picking up he will have far more wiggle room than previously thought. And if we can get swift closure over the EU referendum the age of OSBO will have dawned. Never mind Labour obsessing over the heir to Blair, they should be far more concerned about the heir to Cameron.