Yvette Cooper has not said she is planning a bid for the Labour leadership in the event Labour loses the 8 June General Election.
But then, if she were – and wanted others to know it – she wouldn’t say it either. She’d have others say it for her. That’s how the old style of politics works. Whether she’s behind it or not, a lot of people are suddenly talking about her putative bid. Here are just a few:
The media consensus appears to be that Ms Cooper’s grandstanding during Wednesday’s PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) was posturing for a leadership challenge. Judging by the response of a host of right-wing MPs – including some who are known to have been working to promote Gerard Coyne’s failed attempt to topple Len McCluskey – it either was or they wanted to make it one.
Harriet Harman, Mike Gapes, Ben Bradshaw and others all took part in the worship. Many were pushing a very similar – pre-agreed? – line:
Bear in mind, Corbyn had just made mincemeat of Theresa May over the Dispatch Box – yet not one word on that from an array of MPs who were all a-flutter over Ms Cooper.
But here’s the thing: Ms Cooper attacked Theresa May in the Chamber, when television cameras were sure to catch it – but that appears to be the only thing she did all week in terms of her public presence and the General Election she attacked May for calling.
For example, where you’d expect a string of tweets from any Labour MP about the election, the Tories damage to the UK and Labour’s policies, Yvette Cooper’s Twitter feed has a gaping hole.
Well, there is a single tweet – of Ms Cooper’s ‘interview’ appearance in PMQs:
— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) April 19, 2017
But between May’s ‘shock’ announcement and 8.22pm tonight, that’s the sum total of everything election-related that she managed in her timeline since May’s ‘shock’ announcement on Tuesday.
Over the past week, Ms Cooper found time to tweet about:
- a talk she was chairing
- some strange-looking eggs
- a talk she was chairing
- rugby league
- that talk she was chairing. Again.
But not a single further word about the General Election. Except for her own question (or leadership pitch, as one Tory MP put it).
There has been some other Yvette-related Twitter activity in April, though – and it’s interesting. During her ill-fated leadership bid in 2015, Ms Cooper or her campaign team set up a campaign account ‘@YvetteforLabour’. You’d expect it to be inactive, given it’s over 18 months since she came third, behind Andy Burnham.
But it isn’t.
On 1 April, the account ‘liked‘ a tweet:
Nothing too remarkable about the ‘like’ – except the fact that someone had logged into the account over 18 months after her failed 2015 bid.
Her yvetteforlabour.co.uk website, while containing very little information at the moment, also appears to have been extended to 2018 and was amended in November last year.
All very interesting so far.
Of course, that 2015 performance poses a major problem for Ms C, as coming a poor third hardly gives credibility to a 2017 bid. But sources tell the SKWAWKBOX that her team has come up with a story that they think is strong enough to overcome it.
The pitch will be, if sources are correct, along these lines:
2015 was a very tough time in Ms Cooper’s life because of the aftermath of her husband – former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls – losing his parliamentary seat in the General Election, so her campaign wasn’t as strong as it might otherwise have been.
If this is considered to be a strong enough narrative to restore her credibility as a leadership challenger, this author’s opinion is that some people are easily pleased. Much more serious an issue for her credibility, though, is hinted at by that Twitter timeline – and the timing of the start of briefings that seem designed to position her for a challenge.
The vast majority of Labour members and supporters are focused on one thing at the moment – fighting the General Election and beating the Tories. Even many right-wing MPs seem to be putting their shoulder to the wheel – and some who can’t are stepping down out of the way of those who will.
Ms Cooper, though – at least as far as her Twitter feed suggests – has time to promote her appearances in the Chamber and elsewhere, but not for actually campaigning.
Whether she’s behind this sudden chatter about her leadership potential or someone is doing it for her, it’s not what Labour members would expect to see from a supposedly credible leadership candidate.
Labour members – and the wider voting public – would also not expect Ms Cooper (or her ‘allies’) to be doing the opposite of promoting Labour’s General Election campaign by touting her leadership credentials just as the campaign is getting underway.
Especially when it – and Labour’s leader – have made a start that has Theresa May in hiding and the Establishment rocked back on its heels.
By failing to do the one thing and by doing the other, Ms Cooper – and/or her allies – have demonstrated complete unfitness for leadership of the Labour party.
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