In many ways, Yvette Cooper has a perfect CV for Labour leader: a wealth of experience in government, not factional, respected by colleagues (except those who had a habit of moaning that she was, er, working on her leadership bid when in Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet), well-known in the party membership, capable of delivering a jolly good speech that cheers up a grumpy conference and capable of using her long experience to trip up Theresa May when the Home Secretary is trying to get up to some funny business in the Commons.
But the leadership candidate’s covering letter for her CV is a bit less exciting, because no-one really knows what she stands for. It’s something even her closest friends and supporters admit: you know that Liz Kendall is standing as the Blairite candidate, even if she’s not a fan of these labels, and you know that Andy Burnham is standing as a reinvented man of the left, even though he describes himself as ‘mainstream Labour’. But Cooper is either the keeper of the Brownite flame, or the not-Andy candidate, neither of which really set the soul on fire.
To overcome that rather big weakness, I understand that Cooper is to give a big policy-rich speech later this week in which she leaves her Home Office brief and talks about what she believes on a range of issues. She has already briefed the Independent on her plans for a Scandinavian-style system of universal childcare, writing:
‘Our childcare policy at the election was popular but limited. I want Labour to lead a revolution in childcare and family support. We should campaign for universal childcare – as other countries, including Scandinavia, have. That means breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, holiday clubs and free nursery places and childcare available full-time not just for three- and four-year-olds but two-year-olds too.’
In the coming weeks, she will also intervene on free schools, something Liz Kendall has already offered her views on. If the Labour leadership election has been a rather dull debate in which all the candidates talk repeatedly about ‘aspiration’ (to the irritation of many more people than John Prescott), then it does look as though it’s about to get a little meatier.
But even while she has been rather quiet about what she thinks, Cooper has been phenomenally well-organised. Her leadership campaign, which I outline in the Times today is already up and running in the country, not just in Westminster, with the first Yvette4Leader meetings in the diary and regional organisers in place already. Given the party is now electing its leaders through one member one vote, that sort of outreach operation to the party membership is even more important than before.