Guido has drawn my attention to Liam Byrne’s curious appearance in this morning’s Guardian explaining where Labour went wrong – losing half of its C2 vote – and complaining that his ideas were ignored by his comrades in government. He had put forward a paper to the cabinet addressing the “squeezed lower middle class” but it wasn’t taken seriously. The news article says that Byrne is not standing in the leadership contest. Really?
Byrne’s op-ed in the same newspaper begins: “Labour’s leadership candidates will need to prove they can work fast to learn the lessons of why they lost”. It then pointedly proceeds to lay out several Byrne-ian remedies. I haven’t yet spoken to Byrne or his allies to find out if he is interested in the leadership. But the William Hill odds of 100-1 suddenly look rather too long.
Then again: would he ever recover from the famous espresso/soup memo to his civil servants?
One alternative theory is that Byrne is on manoeuvres for a big frontbench post rather than the top job itself. All ambitious Labour MPs will spend the summer positioning themselves not just for the leadership but also for the shadow cabinet, which is voted for by the PLP.
There will only be about 20 places but – I’m reliably told – many more people who will be going for it; 30 to 40 on some estimates. That means inevitable humiliation for some high-profile figures who find they are not as popular as they think they are. Best to do the self-marketing early.
It was much as I predicted: Byrne has told friends he wants to be deputy leader – if there is a vacancy.