The Sketch: Harriet could have unified Labour like no Miliband will ever do

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The Independent Online

To a chorus of "Ahhhhh"s, Harriet told the House: "One more question before I go..." It was her last appearance at PMQs as Labour deputy. "She's the third Labour leader I've had to face," the PM said. "And she's by far the most popular." More Ahhhhs, and some from the gallery. We're absurdly sentimental up there.

The September sittings are nearly over and Labour will have a new leader in a fortnight. It might have been Harriet herself, had she run. Goodness knows, she became deputy when her critics said Sarah Palin would have a better chance. And she survived the accusations of overspending in the election. She might have united the party in that space that exists between the Milibands.

She disagreed."Too divisive" she described herself. But she was wrong, she has big-tent appeal. She's against disability benefit cuts, and people who send their children to selective schools, and she invented all-women shortlists – the left of the party likes that. Then again, she had a child in a selective school, she slashed benefits for the disabled, she parachuted her husband into an all-female shortlist – the right of the party likes that. How's that divisive? She's a unifier.

And she has that mysterious quality of leadership which is beyond intelligence or eloquence – neither of which, she'd be the first to admit, are her long suit. She has... (I can't find the word) a leaderly solidity about her that the boys indefinably lack.

At PMQs, David Cameron had been very nice to her and she'd been very nice to him. Maybe it'll catch on and Bob Crow will be nice to Boris, and the lion will lie down with the lamb, and the winter of our discontent will be made glorious summer.

Cameron laughingly relayed the number of Labour leadership votes the Harman household had. Harriet had four (a trade union vote, an MP's vote, a party vote and a Fabian society vote). Meanwhile, her husband had three. Seven votes between them. "Isn't democracy wonderful!" he laughed. They're nearly a majority in themselves.

Running into a couple of her colleagues afterwards, there was a surprising verdict on her.

It was said... If you're interested in the announcement she's making, be sure you're the last person who speaks to her before she stands up. She's impressionable. I can't think she'd sit up and take dictation from me, but I like the idea of it. "The State should spend no more than 25 per cent of GDP? Oh Simon, you say things the rest of us daren't think. Let me get you a glass of Sancerre. And a blonde. And 20 couple of hounds."

PS: On the wonders of democracy. To get into the shadow Cabinet, you need just 15 votes. If Rosie Cooper, Sharon Hodgson and Lyn Brown formed a little caucus they could surely get one of themselves elected. Democracy may be a "universal human value" – but now do you see the advantage of a Mongolian dictatorship?