Yvette Cooper refused to be drawn on her leadership ambitions after she established herself as the Labour Party's conference darling with a stinging attack on the Coalition's plans to cut police budgets.
The shadow Home Secretary, who yesterday topped a Shadow Cabinet popularity poll among activists, is emerging as the heir to the Labour leadership. Her husband, shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, suggested at the weekend that he could step aside for her in any future contest.
Asked whether she would ever stand for the leadership, Ms Cooper told BBC Radio 4 yesterday: "It is not part of my plans, it is not part of anybody else's plans. Ed is doing a good job and I think we had a great response to his speech."
Pressed that she was not ruling out ever becoming leader, she replied: "It is just not what I expect to happen. It is not where we are going."
Ms Cooper was urged by several MPs to put herself forward to succeed Gordon Brown last year, but decided to stand aside to allow Mr Balls to contest the election. She told friends that it would be impossible given that she had three young children. Her popularity among colleagues was underlined after she came first in elections last year to the Shadow Cabinet.
Ms Cooper won a standing ovation from the Liverpool conference yesterday for a speech dominated by an attack on the Government's decision to cut police budgets by 20 per cent.
She said Labour would have limited savings to 12 per cent, amounting to £1bn over the course of a parliament rather than £2bn planned by the Government. She accused ministers of cutting "too far, too fast", adding that it was "communities that are paying the price".
She told delegates: "We see a British Prime Minister, a Tory Prime Minister, handing P45s to crime fighting heroes. He shouldn't be sacking the police, he should be backing the police."
Ms Cooper argued that last month's riots across many major UK cities – when the Government made "breathless promises" to send in the Army – highlighted the folly of the planned cuts. "Troops on the streets of Britain. Prime Minister, you don't need to bring in the Army if you have enough police," she said to applause.
Ms Cooper urged ministers to abandon proposals to hold elections for police commissioners next autumn at a reported cost of more than £100m.
"This is the year when the eyes of the world are upon us, our great Olympic opportunity. But we cannot have a repeat of this summer's shameful violence and disorder. So the Government should rethink, they should stop the plans for over 40 crime chiefs."
Ms Cooper argued that crime fell under the last Labour government, but had risen under previous Conservative administrations. "Tories in government do not cut crime. In the end, they just don't believe in the things you need to do, they don't believe in active government, they don't believe in strengthening society."
She denounced plans to cut the number of records held on the DNA database – a step, she said, which would destroy the genetic material of 17,000 suspected rapists – and accused the Government of "watering down" anti-terror measures.
But she admitted that the last government had been wrong to press for 90-day, and then 42-day, detention without charge for terror suspects and that it should have done more on immigration.
Why is she suddenly so northern?
Commentators were quick to pick up on the mysterious northern accent Yvette Cooper used during her speech. The Hampshire-raised, Oxford-educated MP represents the Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford constituency, a collection of former coalmining towns in Yorkshire.
Dr Peter French, an expert in forensic voice analysis, said the phenomenon was increasingly common among politicians. "People routinely change their accents. It depends who you're going to talk to – you've got to make yourself acceptable to your audience," he said.
"Some people do it quite unconsciously – it helps them empathise with their audience and more importantly, draw the audience into empathising with them. Politicians tend to change consciously. There's a general move towards regional pronunciation. But if a politician does it would have to be done over time, or else the newshounds would notice it."
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