Peter Hoskin

Yvette Cooper: a better Balls?

Yvette Cooper: a better Balls?
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One thing's for sure: Iain Duncan Smith won't pay much attention to Yvette Cooper's article in the Times (£) today – but the public might, and that's what makes it such an artful piece of opposition politics. The whole thing is structured as a letter to IDS and, crucially, the tone is conciliatory and cooperative. "You and I agree that we should get more people into work," she begins, before eventually landing on, "you need to stand up and shout for this in government. We will support you if you do." But underneath this sweet talk there's a streak of malicious intent that comes straight from her husband's political textbook. And so we read that the Treasury is "on a sabotage mission". We're misleadingly told that George Osborne plans to "cut 100,000 jobs from the economy". And she claims that IDS's cabinet colleagues "don't agree with the principle of your reforms". All the divisive punch of Balls – but with a friendlier veneer.

Which set me a-thinking: what if Cooper is made shadow chancellor after all? From a purely oppositional point of view, she has been one of Labour's strongest performers over the past few months. She was tenacious in her questioning of Osborne last week; she has developed some nuanced arguments against the coalition's welfare reforms; and now this smiling assassin act in the Times. Cooper's far from perfect – but if the new Labour leader wants a refined version of Balls as shadow chancellor, who doesn't come with so much Brownite baggage, then she could be a decent option.