1. You could feel the world turning at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. David Cameron started to seem like someone whose future is behind him.
His tone and style were unchanged, as if the election hadn’t happened, and as if he hadn’t noticed that Ed Miliband had been replaced by Harriet Harman.
He continued a device that he had used towards the end of last session, of asking the Leader of the Opposition questions, in this case about the right to buy for housing association tenants and reducing the benefit cap.
Harman’s heart wasn’t in it, so she didn’t come back with, “There you go again,” but it was as if Cameron had run out of invention.
Because of his “no third term” pledge, and because he has already been leader of his party for 10 years, he is beginning to feel like someone near the end of his career. Tony Blair went through a similar change, a bit later in his premiership, and it is notable that both became more obsessed with the mechanics of delivering change in their second terms. This week Cameron announced 10 taskforces that sounded very much like the Delivery Unit run by Michael Barber that was so successful in driving public service reform 2001-05.
2. Another marker of changing times: More people now read The Independent than The Sun.
3. Harman’s mechanical performance at PMQs prompted Kevin Meagher’s brilliant idea: “Let’s drop Harriet from PMQs and give the leadership hopefuls a go.”
I suspect that it won’t happen, not because it is such a good idea but because it would so obviously favour one candidate. Cameron would blaze Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper with scorn, but would find it a lot harder to get the measure of Liz Kendall.
4. David Aaronovitch in The Times today (pay wall) compares Kendall to Margaret Thatcher:
“It’s how Kendall is as much as what she is that makes her Labour’s best bet. She won’t thank me for pointing out that in 1975 plenty of Tories were keen to replace Edward Heath with the safe choice of Willie Whitelaw. Another contender, Margaret Thatcher, was too shrill, too unknown, or too unreassuring. Kendall has some of the same flintiness and unflinching realism.”
And he would like Stella Creasy as her deputy leader:
“I think Kendall, if elected, would be complemented by the slightly more radical but hugely impressive MP Stella Creasy, were she to be elected deputy leader. The current favourite for the job, Tom Watson, is a classic machine politician, a political Blatterite, most at home in e-vapour-filled rooms plotting who gets what seat and how. Utterly undogmatic Creasy is his polar opposite, wanting always to take politics out of the cabal and make it what ordinary people do. Her successful campaign against the excesses of payday lending was a model of its kind.
“She’s not stupid either. In a speech last week Creasy laid out the basis for a new Labour approach to business that was neither the ‘sod you’ of Ed Miliband, nor the prawn cocktail obeisance of his predecessors. Labour, she said, should be not for or against business, but ‘of’ it. Business people should find a natural home in the party.”
5. Surveying the Labour leadership field, conversation with friends and colleagues often turns to comparisons with the political greats of the past. Burnham, Cooper and Kendall: they’re not exactly Blair and Brown, are they?
But then I remember that Blair and Brown seemed untested at the time, always just one slip away from revealing themselves as third-raters, and resisting comparison to the heroes of the year-before-yesteryear, Healey, Jenkins, Crosland and the rest.
Bring on the next generation.
6. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this:
“If you want to know how someone else feels, walk a mile in their gloves.”Reuse content