Tuesday 3 June 2008

Jacqui for leader?

Daniel Finkelstein and Nick Robinson report a flurry of interest in Jacqui Smith following her splendid performance at the PLP last night. Of course, any speculation that one is set to be leader can be the kiss of death, not least with Team Brown. But it is good the media are now starting to see the Jacqui Smith that those of us who worked with her down the years already know: a woman who combines the down-to-earth experience of a former schoolteacher and a mum with a steely determination and excellent political antennae. Her promotion to the cabinet was later than it deserved to be, but owed much to her work on the 2005 schools bill, which gave her great kudos in no.10 and saw her becoming chief whip. But before then, she had built considerable experience in a host of Whitehall departments. Her steel was on show recently when she calmly dealt with the rude reception she received from the police trade union. Don't forget too that in the last general election, she managed to ensure that there was no swing to the Conservatives in her Redditch seat, though her share of the vote fell by just under 1% (although it is now target no 42 for the Tories). This at a time when 'safer' seats than hers were falling. And although the commentariat have been slow to recognise it - not least because of an unseemly turf war with Jack Straw - this blog has long recognised her strength. But I'm not going to join those saying that Jacqui should be the next leader of the Labour Party. Only because I don't want to scupper her chances.

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