Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Yvette Cooper puts the boot in with style

She and Theresa May 'are both running for the leadership of our parties, even if I am the only one who will publicly admit it'

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Indy Politics

You can’t help thinking annual party leadership contests would do wonders for parliamentary debate. Never less than competent, but sometimes less than inspiring, Yvette Cooper was suddenly a woman galvanised.

Which can only spring from the fact that, as she (accurately) put it in the Queen’s Speech debate, she and Theresa May “are both running for the leadership of our parties, even if I am the only one who will publicly admit it”.

Of course, she wished the election had left her standing in Ms May’s shoes, “and not just because she usually wears such particularly cool shoes”. (True: though restrained yesterday, the Home Office’s answer to Imelda Marcos has run the gamut from leopard-print kitten heels to over-the-knee patent leather boots for meeting the Queen).

Noting that May and Gove were sitting well apart on the front bench, and recalling their mutual abuse-fest that broke cover last year (He: May lacked “intellectual fire power”; She: Gove was a “wild-eyed neo-con”), Cooper added: “No wonder they want to abolish the right to free speech.”

But she also made an expert fist of eviscerating the Government’s record on immigration and community policing, and highlighted its badly stumbling efforts to repeal the Human Rights Act: “The repeal has been repealed.”

This was an Act which, as she said, incorporated a convention that had been backed by the Tories Winston Churchill and David Maxwell-Fyfe as a bulwark against repeating “the hideous disregard for humanity” that was evident in the Second World War.

The passion worked for the SNP’s Angus McNeil, who called it an “excellent speech”. High praise since his party colleague Pete Wishart had earlier insisted the Nationalists were the true opposition because Labour was “rudderless and leaderless, with its unedifying rush to the right”.

But it won’t be leaderless for ever. The pundits have Cooper trailing a poor third for the job. But then if the pundits were so brilliant she might indeed be Home Secretary by now.

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