Yvette Cooper’s bid for the Labour Party leadership is starting to remind me of Gordon Brown’s in 2007. Both started in a very strong position, both had people questioning whether they really knew what they wanted to do with being leader other than, well, be leader and both struggled to answer those questions.
How far the parallels will extend we’ll see, but the depth of Yvette Cooper’s problems in defining what she is about are nicely illustrated by the relentlessly vacuous nature of her piece attempting to do just that on Huffington Post.
Any one paragraph would work fine as a gentle introduction to what she wants to do. The problem is that is all there is – lots of pleasant generalities which never get to the substance. Exhibit A:
The mountain we now have to climb is high. But there are some who mutter that we should give up. That there needs to be blood on the floor for the Labour Party to rise again. That we should swing our party far to the right or far to the left, then fight it out from first principles all over again. They believe we simply can’t return to office in under a decade. They advocate, not a 2020 strategy, but a vague plan to win in 2025.
But that’s no good for Labour, for Britain or for those who depend on progressive change. We can’t fight and win by remaining a narrow party, we have to reach out. We don’t need a 2025 strategy – and even a 2020 strategy isn’t good enough. We need a 2016 strategy, a plan to win next year – starting with the Mayor of London, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.
Liberal Democrats should, however, be careful of mocking this too much for reading it also reminded me of a fair chunk of what’s being said in the party after the crushing 2015 general election result.
With only a little editing a large part of what Yvette Cooper writes sounds just like Lib Dem post-mortems – and are just as short of real substance in those alternative clothes too. Calls to BE RADICAL (often accompanied by capital letters as if lower case is the preserve of conservatives vested interests) or thrown an extra large number on the housing policy pile suffer, in the Lib Dem context, from much the same problem. They sound nice without actually saying anything about what choices actually should be made or what steps actually should be taken.
So Lib Dems should chuckle a bit, but beware – and in our party’s own leadership contest scrutinise closely what the candidates say and push them to keep on going beyond the pleasant generalities into the hard territory of credible plans and meaningful choices.