The last employment lawyer to become leader of the Labour party did rather a good job, by most accounts, but Chuka Umunna would probably be better off without Tony Blair’s endorsement right now.
Umunna has streaked clear in the market to lead Her Majesty’s Opposition following Ed Miliband’s disastrous General Election showing, with Ladbrokes pricing up the Shadow Business Secretary at 6/4 favourite, ahead of 5/2 second favourite Andy Burnham.
However, the 36-year-old has a helluva fight on his hands to win majority backing in what is a deeply divided party.
Blair and shady acolyte Peter Mandelson were quick out of the blocks after poor old Red Ed’s resignation speech, with the former penning an article for The Observer entitled ‘Labour must be the party of ambition as well as compassion’ hours later, while the latter slammed Miliband on Sunday’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’.
Umunna clearly wishes to associate himself with the ‘New Labour’ ethos; he wrote in the aforementioned Sunday broadsheet that his party had “allowed the impression to arise that we were not on the side of those who are doing well…we talked too little about those creating wealth and doing the right thing”.
The problem for Umunna is that a large section of people set to vote in September’s Labour leadership election hate Blair, and equate Mandelson to various types of pond life.
The election rules have been changed since Miliband won, largely thanks to the help of union barons who campaigned for him, in 2010, but such alterations haven’t made the party any less left leaning.
Furthermore, Umunna has made some pretty horrible presentational decisions in the past, including stocking his wardrobe £1200 Savile Row suits (recently reported to be around the same price a pop as his Streatham constituents pay in council tax every year).
Even worse, prior to becoming an MP he once posted the update “Most of the West End haunts seem to be full of trash and C-list wannabes” on social media site ‘ASmallWorld’, using his middle name Harrison. That comment will come back to haunt him if elected, and Labour know it.
Of the potential alternatives, Burnham is probably the man many in the party would be able to wear, as the Liverpudlian has working-class roots but also served in both Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s governments.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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