The Tory MP Frederick Edwin Smith, best mate of Winston Churchill, and well-known for his use of sarcasm, once said of an oponent: “The arguments he produces in his election addres will win no more votes than his photograph on the front cover.” Thankfully, the electability of our politicians doesn’t revolve around how good-looking they are. But, as elsewhere in life, when a particularly photogenic figurehead emerges they stand out from the crowd. Our cover star Chuka Umunna is a very dapper man who knows how to wear a well-cut suit. As our coverline asks, has he got the substance to go with the style? Our interview on p50 reveals that he is meeting with Tony Blair, the master at understanding the power of style in politics. Despite Blair’s rather mixed reputation among the modern Parliamentary Labour Party, Umunna is completely unapologetic about his discussions with the former PM. Interestingly, Umunna cites Michael Heseltine as another influence. Umunna appears to be triangulating as he settles into his shadow business brief, by talking to the chief of New Labour and one of the Conservatives’ ‘big beasts’. He obviously draws comfort and inspiration from these two mentors, as he develops the balance between Ed Miliband’s predator-producer argument while fighting against any efforts to dismiss Labour as anti-business. Talking to a shadow minister recently about the PLP, he told me: “The political gravity of the Labour Party is entirely centred around the 2010 intake.” Labour young guns like Umunna are developing as politicians as fast as they can. Just as the 2001 and 2005 Conservative intakes are wondering if they will ever be noticed, so are the older guard in Labour as Ed Miliband’s attention focuses on his newer cohort. Dan Hodges explores this in his column on p16. As we reach the second half of this coalition government’s term in power, Umunna has a golden opportunity to build substantial business policies for Labour. It’s clear the ambition is there. Now we’ll see if he can match it with ability.
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On the cover Chuka Umunna photographed exclusively for Total Politics by Paul Rider on 26 March 2012 at the Houses of Parliament, London.
4 | May 2012 | Total Politics