Yvette Cooper was on the BBC over the weekend, talking about what she’d do if she was elected by the party faithful to steer the Labour ship forwards. Actually, thinking back on it, it was more like she spent a lot of time telling us about all the wrong things the other candidates would do if they became leader.
She spoke about certain “colleagues in some of the discussions” wanting to “swallow the Tory manifesto whole”. You don’t need to have studied PPE at Oxford to figure out who she was tarring with that particular brush. “What I won’t do is fall in to what I think is a Tory trap of using language which stigmatises those who are not working. I don’t think that is about Labour values,” Cooper then went onto to say, a perceived swipe at Burnham. So basically, Andy Burnham is a Tory because he thinks people who don’t have jobs should look for work, and Kendall is a Tory because she thinks capitalism is okay. Only Yvette Cooper is truly Labour. What that actually means, beyond not being Andy Burnham or Liz Kendall, is extremely unclear.
This is the problem with Yvette. She says she wants to distance herself from the old ways of Labour doing things, but her approach is intrinsically old school in all the wrong ways. Saying why Burham and Kendall are bad, not why you are good is a classic example of the sort of politician-speak that a politician like Yvette Cooper herself would decry. She’s a very good politician, in other words, and that just might be a big part of the problem.
Yvette is also very much a “continuity” candidate, which I find odd. After losing 26 seats and almost all of Scotland, why would Labour want to continue doing whatever it was that it was doing exactly? After Miliband, can’t they all agree that a fresh start might be a good idea? I thought there would at least be consensus around that, but no: here we had Yvette Cooper, one of the frontrunners to be the new leader, essentially setting out her stall as someone who wouldn’t change a thing. Her campaign slogan could well be: “Like Ed Miliband, only way less weird”.
Meanwhile in other depressing news from the same neck of the woods, Burnham finally came out with a very predictable line about how the much maligned “metropolitan elite” has been in charge of the Labour Party for too long. Yes, Andy, the people who live in cities have been a big part of the Labour Party for some time now. That’s because people in metropolitan areas, for instance London, vote Labour in large numbers, while people in the countryside mostly vote Tory. So slagging off the main contingent of your voters, particularly right off the back of a crushing defeat, isn’t a great idea. But what do I know? I didn’t study PPE at Oxford. Can I still be considered a member of the “metropolitan elite”, please?