As Keir Starmer’s re-run of the great Change UK centrist dad experiment sinks deeper into political quicksand, the importance of a party leader being able to project a compelling personality becomes ever more obvious.
Even the pinko pundit class that was overjoyed by his election as Labour leader is now close to giving up on Starmer, whose lack of ringcraft reminds us that there is something to be said for career politicians after all.
Ambitious shadow ministers with antennae more finely tuned in to the public mood than his are said already to be preparing prospective leadership campaign teams in anticipation of the voters of Batley and Spen delivering a devastating thumbs down to Starmer next week.
Hitherto most chatter about Labour’s future has centred on Andy Burnham as the figure who could revive its long-term fortunes. But Starmer’s demise is approaching far too quickly for that and his successor will surely be chosen from among the ranks of current Labour MPs.
My twenty quid will be going on deputy leader Angela Rayner, who at the time of writing can still be backed at 7-1. That the very mention of the abrasive Rayner, who provoked outrage by appearing to call a Tory MP ‘scum’ in the Commons chamber last year, causes shuddering in polite company is far from disabling for her.
Because Labour is in dire need of a polarising figure who can at least give it a basic identity and a sense of mission rather than the bland non-presence with which it is currently saddled. And the persona of bovver boot-wearing Aggro Angie could be just the ticket.
Whatever you think of her, the woman knows how to identify a political bruise and then keep punching it. A look at her social media output also reveals her innate talent for expressing comprehensible opinions in direct language, a trait she shares with the likes of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
Far more than Starmer’s, her politics is also rooted in workplace struggle, with basic priorities of winning better pay and conditions for shop floor staff cropping up again and again as befits her own life story as an early school-leaver and former care sector worker.