Peter Hoskin


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Harriet Harman is everywhere in today's papers.  I mean, just look at the stories in the Times.  On their cover, they have news that she's clashing with her colleagues and civil servants over new rape laws:

"Labour’s deputy leader used her position as Gordon Brown’s stand-in to demand a more radical overhaul of the law, such as targets for prosecutors and police to secure more convictions. She has the backing of Vera Baird, the Solicitor-General, but Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary and Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, do not want to widen the terms of reference and the review has been postponed...

...According to Whitehall officials, she tore up plans to begin a study of the rape laws after clashing with civil servants. 'There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the substance,' said one. 'It’s been looked at again.'"

Inside, there's this snippet about Labour's women-only short lists:

"Party officials complain that Harriet Harman is rigidly enforcing a policy that women should be fielded in half of winnable seats in each area. It means that local parties in areas where there are few sitting women Labour MPs are given little choice over selection as the party’s high command tries to meet the quota."

And Alice Thompson adds a commentary which begins:

"Finally we have a prime minister again. Harriet Harman has filled a vacuum. We have had little leadership for a year, and suddenly we know where we stand. You are probably appalled, you think she is ghastly, hideous, ranting. But, admit it, at least she is a conviction politician."

Of course, Gordon Brown will not be amused.  I'm sure he'd have preferred his stand-ins to just "get on with the job," and not overshadow his own little announcements.  But, instead, Harman has taken to the stage with gusto, and put on a performance for everyone to hear.  To be honest, it's all quite embarrassing: one of the surest signs yet that many within government have completely given up on Gordon, and are focusing on the post-election leadership battle.  And it could well get worse.  After Harman, it's a certain Lord Mandelson; someone who - need it be said? - is not known for shunning the limelight.

UPDATE: Adam Boulton has written a post saying that Peter Mandelson had his turn as stand-in next week, whereas as I thought - and say above - that it's next week.  We've just called Downing St for confirmation, and they say that it is actually Mandelson next week.