December 07, 2007

Lacking the Heavyweights

Iain Dale has a rather good piece up about how few possible Labour leaders there are in the present cabinet save for Brown. Its an interesting issue- the Tories have a similar problem- I can think of only (apart from Cameron) four or five Tories that would make a good alternative leader. Dale is rightly interested in comparing it to the past- I wonder if there is something in the idea that two things have diminished the presence of heavyweights around the cabinet table. The first being that we seem to have longer times in government for each party- so the opposition are comparatively less experienced coming in. I dealt with some issues about experience recently on Wednesday- and I think those points hold.

Something else though strikes me as important and its an idea I mean to develop more fully at some point- its the old Denis Healey point about hinterlands. Politicians I think lack something if all they know about is politics. One of the reasons that my favourite opposition frontbench spokesman is William Hague is not just the fact that he is one of the wittier speakers around, but also that Hague wrote, admittedly not a very good, biography of the younger Pitt which seemed to engage with some of the evidence. I do think and its a precept on which this blog runs, that to understand one part of life you need to think quite deeply about other parts of life. Its a vague sense and at some point I want to write it down more fully- but I do think that engaging with other bits of life strengthens you as a politician. For a start it reminds you that the Westminster game is ultimately not the centre of the universe- nor is someone's political orientation or career the only way to judge them.