James Forsyth

Is the Yvette Cooper for leader rumour really a kick at Balls?

Is the Yvette Cooper for leader rumour really a kick at Balls?
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The Evening Standard’s scoop that Yvette Cooper is being urged to stand as a ‘stop Harman’ candidate has sent the Westminster bush telegraph into overdrive. The speed with which the Cooper story is spreading is proof that we have now entered the stage of Labour party’s decline where no rumour is too far-fetched to be dismissed. Although, it is only fair to point out that the makeover and media training Cooper has had have worked; she has gone from being one of the worst frontline Labour performers to one of the best. Her intellect—if not her judgement—should also not be in doubt. Treasury civil servants say she has a far better grasp of the economy and the current situation than the Chancellor.

But I suspect that there might be foul play at work here. Those whose priority is to ‘stop Balls’, and there are no shortage of these people, know that boosting Cooper actually hurts Balls. Balls’ momentum coming out of the gate in a leadership election is going to be stalled if everyone is discussing whether his wife wouldn’t actually be the better candidate. (The boosting of Ed Miliband when David Miliband was flirting heavily with standing for the leadership was to the same end.) It is hard to be a compelling candidate when it is a matter of debate whether you’re even the best candidate in your own family. At the same time, a Cooper endorsement will be worth little to Balls as it is already built into his price. So, Balls gains nothing from her stature being boosted.

All the Labour leadership speculation that is going on at then moment is likely to be overtaken by events, not least who loses their seat at the next election and the psychological effect on the party of a resounding rejection by the electorate. Remember: there weren’t many people tipping William Hague to be the next leader of the Tory party in February 1996.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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