The ghastliness of Carol Vorderman

National icon turns into poor man's Sarah Palin.

I have an embarrassing confession to make: I used to have a crush on the former Countdown co-presenter Carol Vorderman. Not any more.

Her performance last night on BBC1's Question Time was one of the worst by any panel member I have ever seen. It wasn't just that she outed herself nakedly as a partisan Conservative, having gone down the "they're all as bad as each other" route. It wasn't just the ghastliness of her clichéd, shrill, pub-boring, parochial approach.

It was, I'm afraid, her sheer stupidity. I thought this woman was hailed as our great national genius! Instead, she trotted out sluggish conventional wisdom at every turn.

The key example was with the Jon Venables affair, on which she was the only panel member to insist not only that Jamie Bulger's parents have a "right" to know what Venables has done to go back into prison, but that the public does, too. She could not answer why, and it became clear that her desire was based on: a) ignorance, b) crude populism and c) nosiness.

It was left to our own excellent Will Self to argue bravely that the child killers may not have been evil. (I don't necessarily agree with that, but boy, was it a courageous view to articulate in that Middle England arena.)

Carol, you were so lovely on Countdown. Please stay out of politics, though. I know Sarah Palin, and you're no Sarah Palin.

 

Read Will Self's columns for the New Statesman

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.