Could Heidi Alexander become leader of the Labour Party?

More praise for Lewisham East MP’s leadership credentials

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It was the barnstorming moment talked about after the hubbub of Prime Minister’s Questions had died down yesterday.

Theresa May seems to spend a lot of time on the back foot the back foot these days and yesterday it was the Lewisham East MP who put her most on the defensive. Alexander accused the Prime Minister of “ramping up the no-deal rhetoric” over Brexit because she was “afraid of the most right-wing, rabid elements” in the Conservative Party.

“Do the British people not deserve better than a Prime Minister simply running scared?” the MP for Lewisham East asked.

The Prime Minister looked rattled and fumbled her dispatch papers while rising to respond (watch the whole exchange below).

It was enough for some of the lobby hacks to comment on the strength of Alexander’s chances of leading the Labour party.

“Said it before and I’ll say it again, Heidi Alexander would make a brilliant Labour leader,” said the Telegraph’s senior political correspondent, Kate McCann. The Sun’s political editor also agreed. “I’m not sure our support will be particularly helpful …”, McCann added shortly afterwards, in a wry acknowledgement of The Sun and Telegraph’s political leanings.

Alexander’s impressive performance may have prompted the remarks, but it’s not the first time they have been aired. The veteran Labour MP Frank Field mentioned it last year. “I give Heidi a head start in possessing the abilities needed [for leader],” he wrote. “I also think it shameful that Labour has yet to have a permanent, full-time woman leader while the Conservatives can boast of two female Prime Ministers.”

Another political correspondent cited a former Labour front-bencher saying “Heidi Alexander would make an excellent party leader. She has great warmth, charm and huge integrity”. Back in March, the editor of Labour Uncut, cited her as one of the frontrunners for leadership.

“Only Heidi Alexander could be reasonably confident of making the ballot even if rivals were busy hoovering up nominations.”

“Her personal standing within the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] and soft left political positioning make her an archetypal unity candidate.”

This was, of course, before the Conservative Party’s disastrous showing in the June 8 election boosted the morale and standing of the current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And that’s a quarter where Alexander – who has never publicly expressed leadership ambitions – is unlikely to find much backing. Supporters of Corbyn, whom Alexander served as shadow health secretary, are unlikely to forgive or forget her blunt resignation in June 2015.

So that leadership may not be up for grabs for a while. But Alexander, a vociferous opponent of Brexit who has been re-elected twice to Lewisham East with a commanding majority, looks likely to be at least in the running when it does.

Lewisham’s flying MP and the forgotten miracle mile

The speeding politician of Lewisham North

As an athletics fan, I have stumbled upon two nuggets of local track-related trivia in recent weeks – one contemporary and another from the archives.

Firstly, there was a Lewisham link in one of the brilliant relay teams in this summer’s World Athletics Championships. Daryll Neita, who went to school at Prendergast Hilly Fields, ran the anchor leg of the woman’s 4×100, bringing the team home for a silver medal (hat tip Transpontine, a cultural treasure trove of a blog).

As an aside, here is (yet another) sad reflection of our hollowed out local press: the News Shopper had been following Daryll’s progress since she was 13 years old, when she ran in the London Youth Games (and was pipped in the 100m by Dina Asher-Smith, a fellow south east Londoner and future relay colleague). Continue reading “Lewisham’s flying MP and the forgotten miracle mile”

Manor Park gets into its swing

The icy January conditions cut short our plans to go wading in the mighty Quaggy from Manor Park with Lee Green Forum on Saturday.

But a glorious winter’s day still had much to offer. In the bracing conditions, we warmed our cockles with a cup of hot chocolate from Fred and Banu, the couple behind the Arts Cafe who have done so much to rejuvenate the park over the past two years.

In the space next door to the cafe, a five-piece swing band called the Pimentos shortly began to play – and what a great interlude to the day. Continue reading “Manor Park gets into its swing”