Is John Denham the person who can retain Labour’s English supporters?
Because of Gordon Brown’s tendency to make most of the government’s announcements himself we rarely get a chance to see ministers like the Innovation and Universities Secretary, John Denham, in action. Doing a video search of BBC news and you realise how rarely he’s given a chance to appear on television.
Yet from looking at the five minutes clip above from this year’s BBC’s local election results programme you see a very different sort of politician from that we are used to from Labour. Here is somebody, I believe, who has a style and approach that is more right for English voters, particularly those in the south, than just about anybody else in the cabinet.
The English dimension is critical because much of the blame for the result in Crewe & Nantwich will be put upon the “Toff” campaign devised by the Glasgow-born Steve McCabe MP. His view of the world simply doesn’t resonate south of the border.
In the wider analysis of Labour’s likely failure much attention will, I believe, be focussed on the way that the party has lost the support of the white working class – something that was highlighted by Sean Fear’s excellent analysis of the London mayoral result here on Friday. Crewe and Nantwich is 97.9% white.
Denham, of course, is the only one of the ministers who resigned over Labour’s decision to invade Iraq who is still active. He was Minister of State at the Home Office until March 2003. It’s said that Gordon blocked his appointment as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the aftermath of Tony Blair’s 2005 general election victory.
He sits for Southampton Itchen which he took from the Tories in the 1992 general election and is one of the few bastions for Labour left in southern England. I could see a Denham-led Labour party being very challenging for David Cameron – much more so than the other names that are often mentioned.
In the “next Labour leader” betting Denham is sixth favourite at 10/1.