Cooper runs away with goal of the month

Mauling of Mensch is Uncut readers’ favourite

by Atul Hatwal

In a resounding victory, Yvette Cooper’s Commons slap-down of Louise Mensch was Uncut readers’ choice for June’s shadow cabinet goal of the month. With 38% of the vote, Cooper was more than 17% ahead of Andy Burnham in second place who secured 21% of the vote.

Ed Balls was third with 18%,  Tessa Jowell was fourth on 16% and Mary Creagh fifth on 8%.

Over the past year, Yvette Cooper has quietly established herself as one of the shadow cabinet’s true big beasts.

She has featured in two of the three goal of the month competitions so far, and has successfully defined the government as slashing frontline police services.

Her performance against Mensch, one the more bumptious Tory women from the 2010 intake, was just one illustration of her growing command both in the chamber and in the media.

But while Cooper has assiduously built a solid track record as a tenacious adversary in opposition, it’s notable that she has rigorously limited the scope of her public interventions.

Unlike several of her shadow cabinet colleagues, she hasn’t waded into the internal debate about the future of the Labour party.

There have been no speeches from her to the likes of Progress sending coded messages about the direction the party is headed. Nor has she rushed to the TV studios to give the line on unity and backing Ed Miliband when his performance has been questioned.

Instead, Yvette Cooper has stuck diligently to her brief. There hasn’t been a scintilla of activity that could be construed as disloyal. But equally nothing that would bind her irrevocably to the current leader.

One of the most pertinent comments on Tony Blair’s ascent to the leadership of the party was that he “emerged without trace”. Cooper’s current path looks to have some striking similarities to a previous shadow Home Secretary.

According to the latest odds, Yvette Cooper is 5-1 joint favourite to be next leader of the Labour party (along with David Miliband). During last year’s leadership election she was explicit in the formulation she gave as to why she was not running – it was not right for her this time.

The path to the top is fraught with pitfalls. Some can be forseen. Ed Balls is towering figure in the party with a formidable organisation. But he also has enemies and if Labour’s current economic strategy comes to be seen as a weakness, how Cooper responds to the attacks on her husband and his policies will be a defining test for her leadership aspirations.

Some traps open up unexpectedly. Harriet Harman’s proposal for a rule that one of the leader and deputy leader should be a woman would seem, on the face of it, to help a Cooper leadership candidacy.

But if this proposal was passed, and there was to be a vacancy at the top in this parliament, how the party would view an all woman leadership ticket with Harman still in post as deputy, is unclear.

Whatever the twists and turns of road to the leadership, possibly the single safest route is to keep hitting the Tories and staying above the fray when it comes to Labour’s internal politics.

Expect more appearances from Cooper in coming goal of the month competitions, and more radio silence on the cycle of internal crises which periodically convulse the party.

Atul Hatwal is associate editor of Labour Uncut.

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