Has Yvette Cooper ruled herself out of shadow chancellorship?

Shadow welfare secretary backs her husband Ed Balls on the deficit

Westminster rumour has it that Yvette Cooper, the shadow work and pensions secretary, is being lined up to be shadow chancellor. The logic is that Ed Balls has made it impossible to serve in that role, certainly under David Miliband, having said he disagrees with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling -- and David Miliband -- on the need to halve the deficit in four years. Balls has stated:

I told Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in 2009 that - whatever the media clamour at the time - even trying to halve the deficit in four years was a mistake.

Some say, too, that Ed Miliband, who has been more ambiguous about the deficit reduction plan, would anyway be reluctant to put Balls in such a senior position after the two men's relationship has suffered considerably during this campaign. Cooper is seen as a sensible choice because, insiders say, "you get some of Ed in there" without having Balls himself, while Cooper is an economics expert and former financial journalist in her own right.

But in a little-noticed interview on the BBC's Daily Politics today, Cooper backed her husband's position and not that of Darling and David Miliband. In Labour-land, that is significant because it means that on the logic of Balls being ruled out of the shadow chancellor job, Cooper now is out of the running too.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.