Well, even by Westminster standards that dream died fast. A mere 72 hours after announcing his bid for the Labour leadership, Chuka Umunna - the bookies favourite - has un-announced it, claiming he was unhappy with the “scrutiny and attention” that are part and parcel of the political whirligig.
“I have not found it to be a comfortable experience” he said. “Most importantly, I continued to have very real concerns and worry about this bid’s impact on those close to me.”
After momentary shock that the front-runner had fallen so quickly, rumours began circulating that a Sunday paper was planning to publish a damaging story, and that Umunna was withdrawing to save a dark secret being exposed to the nation. But if this really was the case - that there was something so scandalous lurking in his past that he had to leave the race entirely mere days after entering - then why was he running in the first place? And if the story was a relatively minor one, not serious enough to hurt him professionally, then was he really not strong enough to weather the fallout? After witnessing the interminable election campaign, during which Miliband was excoriated on front page after front page for eating a sandwich, he can't have expected an easy ride all the way to September.
But now it seems that there is, in fact, no internet-breaking revelation on its way. No Sunday newspaper has claimed to have a story in the pipeline, and those closest to Umunna maintain his statement that “nothing compares to actually doing it and the impact on the rest of one's life,” can be taken at face value. Instead it seems that Labour have lost someone who had all the makings of a fine leader at a time they desperately need one simply because he didn’t like the level of intense private scrutiny that comes with the top job. There was no disastrous scoop, just the promise of one waiting, perhaps, at some point, stumbled upon after weeks and months of dogged pursuit. And at what cost?
Who will be the next Labour leader?
Who will be the next Labour leader?
1/7 Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham has promised to restore the party's "emotional connection with millions of people," if elected
2/7 Mary Creagh
Mary Creagh has called on her party to win back “Middle England”
3/7 Liz Kendall
Shadow health minister Liz Kendall is seen as a Blairite
4/7 Yvette Cooper
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper became the fourth person to join the Labour leadership race
5/7 Tristram Hunt
Tristram Hunt, the shadow Education Secretary, has said he will not run for the Labour leadership as he had not gathered the required nominations of 35 MPs. He has instead endorsed the moderniser Liz Kendall.
6/7 Dan Jarvis
One of the favourites to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader – ex-Army paratrooper Dan Jarvis – has ruled himself out, saying he won't do it because of his children
7/7 Chuka Umunna
Chuka Umunna dropped out of the Labour leadership contest just three days after he announced he was in the running
Two conclusions – by no means mutually exclusive – can be drawn. First, if this is the case, then Umunna simply may not have been up to the role and all it entails. That he was right when he said “I had always wondered whether it was all too soon for me to launch this leadership bid – I fear it was”.
But second, we are obsessing over the wrong things. It is deeply concerning that a seemingly decent man, with the potential to be a great leader, has been forced out of a bid for leadership in order to protect his family – including his girlfriend’s 102 year-old grandmother – from journalists. It is right that we know something about the personal lives of those who ask for our vote, but the price of a political career shouldn’t be the privacy of those that you love. We end up with the politicians that we deserve, and when we demand to know every detail of someone’s back story, before we have ever heard their policies, is it any wonder no one ‘normal’ ever wants to represent us?Reuse content