Daily catch-up: a conversation with the Blairite candidate; and the politics of hope

The pretender laughs off Tony Blair’s reported endorsement, while saying Labour should have a ‘dialogue’ with its most successful leader

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1. Chuka Umunna brushed aside the report that he is Tony Blair’s candidate to be next leader of the Labour Party “in conversation” with me at a Progress event yesterday.

“That piece is predicated on the notion that we’re going to lose the general election, and we’re all absolutely focused on ensuring that we win it. I don’t think anything would be worse for our candidates in the field than for us all to be indulging in chitter chatter that suggests they’re not going to win. So I don’t get involved in the whole speculation and Westminster soap opera chat because we want to ensure that Labour can get into power again and change people’s lives in a big way.”

Are you not proud to be endorsed by Labour’s most successful leader?

“I’m not going down that avenue. You can ask me again and again. It would be rather odd if people didn’t seek to have a dialogue with one of our most successful leaders ever. So I find it weird that it’s newsworthy that people talk to any of our former leaders because they have a lot to offer, all of them.”

Would you be embarrassed if, for example, Peter Mandelson were to run your leadership campaign?

“This is part of the problem isn’t it, about politics and what interests the Bubble. All this Blairite, Brownite is viewed through the prism of personalities. I’m not sure obsessing about individuals means we’ll be able to meet the big challenges … the biggest challenge for us as social democrats across Europe is how do we deliver what we believe in in a fiscally cold climate.”

He was, however, quite staunchly New Labour. He was a fiscal hawk, saying that there is nothing progressive about spending more on debt interest payment than on housing or transport. He was resolutely pro-European, although he did say that he had changed his mind on the euro and did not think that Britain would or should ever adopt it. He was pro-business, saying his aim was to help people make their first million. And he said that a lot of concern about UKIP’s appeal to the white working class betrayed a patronising view of the working class. He said he wants a classless society.

You can listen to the audio of the event here.

2. This is the best thing written last week: John McTernan on why political language so often fails to connect. In it he quotes Norman Kirk, prime minister of New Zealand, 1972-74, who said that people want “someone to love, somewhere to live,  somewhere to work and something to hope for”.

Guido Fawkes identified this as an adaptation of a quotation by an American writer called George Washington Burnap in 1848, when presumably a lot of American men were named George Washington:

“The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

McTernan applies this thought to present-day sneering at UKIP, or at those attracted to it, for being backward looking:

“The political commonsense is that these voters are driven by, defined by, nostalgia. What’s wrong with that? Nostalgia is a form of dreaming; dreaming is a form of hoping. Maybe, just maybe, they spook us – the political classes – because they make a bigger claim on politics than we believe it can bear. They believe it can make a difference. We just pretend it can. Who’s really out of touch?”

3. Fabulous Twitter exchange (and scroll up) in which Hugo Rifkind admits to buying his shirts at Topman (for the full bonkersness start here and scroll down).

4. Tom Freeman on why publicly isn’t publically, when every other -ic word adds -ally when becoming an adverb.

5. Win a copy of Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top 10s from Politics to Pop here, or by suggesting a Top 10 for me to compile (in the comments or on Twitter).

6. And finally, thanks to Dave Hurley for this from October:

Doctor: You contracted onomatopoeia

Me: Is it serious?

Doctor: It’s just as bad as it sounds.