One of the less edifying (but hey! Still fun) aspects of the death throes of this Government has been watching the various no-marks, dropkicks and child-frighteners begin the positioning process for after the election. Is it going to be David Miliband? Yvette Cooper? Jon Cruddas? Uncle Tom Cobbley? Well, on one level, who cares? In ten years time it will be as if we were still worrying about Gillian Shepherd and Stephen Dorrell. This lot are doomed, and that grows more certain the longer they cling onto power.
But, on another level, it’s an important question. Labour will, barring unforeseen events, be one of the two largest parties in the Commons for a long time to come. The make-up of an opposition is important, not only for the party itself, but for the Government – the absence of a credible opposition certainly did Tony Blair no favours. In light of that, it must be seen as discouraging that Harriet Harman appears to be the bookies favourite.
Now, my colleague has long believed that Harman is the inevitable future leader for Labour, and I’ve been coming around to his way of thinking. Despite her obvious shortcomings (her shrillness, her fondness for the abolition of the rule of law, that sort of thing) she has been playing a pretty shrewd game of capturing the left of the Parliamentary party. If there is to be a Labour leadership election after the General Election (and, joking aside, it’s pretty hard to see how this could be anything other than a Labour defeat, even if they defy gravity and deny the Tories a majority) then the parliamentary party will be greatly reduced in numbers – and the majority of those losing their seats will be the newer, more ‘Blairite’ MPs. This should scupper the hopes of Purnell, Burnham, Miliband D and so on. Straw is too old to be anything other than a caretaker leader. Who’s left? Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Jon Cruddas, possibly Yvette Cooper and Harriet Harman. Doesn’t look so outlandish in that context does it?