Political futurology being all the rage, it’s time to dust off the trusty crystal ball. The trusty crystal ball, that is, which last November foresaw Andy Burnham as a dead cert to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, and in early May glimpsed Ed striding into No 10.
Yet even if this is no golden age for cocksure predictions, hear this and hear it well. Stella Creasy will be the next Labour leader but one.
A distant second in the deputy leadership betting, behind Tom Watson, Stella is interviewed in The Times, and you cannot fail to be struck by how smart and formidable she is. We all know that the Walthamstow MP with the northern background and the Southern belle name is cool (she loves her indie music) and tough (the taking down of Wonga, resilience under Twitterfire, etc).
Meanwhile, there is an unmistakable hint of the young Margaret Thatcher about her – and not merely because, having been raised in Manchester until she she was 11 when the family moved to Essex, she painstakingly eradicated a northern accent. Stella has aristo blood on her splendid mother’s side, and like one of those PG Wodehouse gels who can open an oyster with a glance, she’ll brook no nonsense. Throw in flashes of wit and a strong intellect – “That’s dumb Dr blonde bitch to you actually”, this PhD answered an abusive moron on Twitter – and she is absolutely what Labour needs right now. But assuming the party plumps for an old-school machine politician in the portly shape of Watson, you doubt she will grieve.
“Actually the challenge right now is in our grassroots. Those 660,000 people – how do we channel their energies?” she tells Carol Midgley in explaining why she doesn’t intend to return to the Shadow Cabinet.
Labour leadership: The Contenders
Labour leadership: The Contenders
1/2 Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn started off as the rank outsider in the race to replace Ed Miliband and admitted he was only standing to ensure the left of the party was given a voice in the contest. But the Islington North MP, who first entered Parliament in 1983, is now the firm favourite to be elected Labour leader on September 12 after a surge in left-wing supporters signing up for a vote.
2/2 Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham started out as the front-runner in the leadership election, seen as the candidate of the left until Jeremy Corbyn entered the race. The former Cabinet minister has found himself squeezed between the growing populism of Corbyn’s radical agenda and the moderate, centre-left Yvette Cooper, not knowing which way to turn. It has attracted damaging labels such as ‘flip-flop Andy’, most notably over his response to the Government’s Welfare Bill. He remains hopeful he can win enough second preference votes to take him over the 50 per cent threshold ahead of Corbyn.
“I’m looking at 2020, I’m looking at the world to come.” In other words, she means to spend the chaotic years ahead freed from the shackles of collective responsibility, and courting the electorate. The tactic worked for Tim Farron, the godly new Liberal Democrat guv’nor. For what it’s worth (absolutely nothing, obviously, if that much), a strong hunch says it will work equally well for the mighty Stella Creasy.
Mail’s cheesy prediction of life under Corbyn
Looking even further ahead than 2020 is the Mail on Sunday.
The paper commissioned a writer, David Thomas, to contribute “a brilliant imagining” of what Britain would be like in 2023 after 1,000 days under prime minister Corbyn. And by no means does it look good in a dystopian horror story to make Orwell or Huxley read like Beatrix Potter on ecstasy.
London is aflame, rioting stalks the land, the police have been striking for months, and a UN chopper is landing in Downing Street, like the last ’copter out of Saigon, to airlift Corbo to safety in Ireland.
He has annihilated the economy (inflation is at 25 per cent), and terminally pissed off President Trump by cancelling Trident.
I’ve a feeling Chris Mullin colonised this territory a while ago, and perhaps more artfully than Mr Thomas, but it’s a chilling tale all the same. Or to paraphrase a tweet from the user Fin, the Mail seems to have had one of its cheese dreams yet again.
‘Tiger’ Burnham’s dream is still burning bright
Despite rumours to the contrary, Andy Burnham hasn’t abandoned his dream.
Andy’s a fighter, not a quitter, as illustrated by a detail in an Observer report of a meeting he held during a daring incursion into the Stella Creasy stronghold of Colchester. Andy, God love him, walked on to the stage to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”.
We cannot gauge the level of energy at the gathering, though the image that comes to mind is last week’s poignant snap of David Van Day’s care-home concert in front of a couple of snoozing head-lolling old ladies.
Still, if the eyelash supermodel likes to think of himself as Rocky Balboa, the scrappy underdog who refuses to be intimidated by Apollo Corbyn-Creed’s reputation and lethal hand speed, who will be so cruel as to puncture the fantasy?
‘Sun’ disobeys its master’s voice over leadership
I am dismayed to find that The Sun is ignoring its proprietor’s thinking on the Labour leadership.
Tweeting on the matter after giving his carer the slip, Rupert Murdoch predicted a Corbyn victory which he appeared to endorse by reference to Jez being the only one of the quartet who believes anything.
It is not clear why he made this intervention, though these days he is believed to favour Labour leaders whose bottoms are not sufficiently pert to inflame anyone to whom he might be married.
Whatever his rationale, The Sun has since intensified its attacks on Corbyn, with Tony Parsons chipping in a typically nuanced critique. But I guess this sort of disobedience is the price Rupert is willing to pay for being such a determinedly hands-off owner.
Today’s hopefuls should consider Yesterday’s man
For Andy, Jeremy, Stella, Yvette, Liz and anyone else looking to a glittering future, we conclude with a cautionary tale. Great British Railway Journeys, Michael Portillo’s TV boreathon, is now being screened on a channel called Yesterday. Polly, who was once his party’s future too, is now quite literally Yesterday’s man.