I’ve no idea why Chuka Umunna decided to pull out of the contest for the leadership of the defeated and bedraggled Labour Party days after getting into it. But better now than later, I suppose. A resignation later, say a year from now, would have been not merely irritation but disastrous.
The reason he cited for his withdrawal – undue media pressure on him and his family – seems specious to me. What did he expect? A free ride from the intrepid, ever watchful British news hounds? No probing into his finances? No examination of his sexual preferences? Has anyone in the entire history of politics not endured such snooping?
Of course not.
And that’s why Chuka’s excuse doesn’t ring true somehow. Anyway, it doesn’t matter now because he has departed the scene – and Britain will have to look elsewhere for someone to become the first black party leader, and potentially the first black prime minister. For now, a procession of lacklustre white candidates – not a personality to share among the lot of them – will have to do.
Meanwhile, over at the headquarters of the UK Independence Party, fresh from an impressive election performance, in terms of votes if not of parliamentary seats, chaos reigns and blood flows. The cause is the party’s leader and erstwhile hero and icon, Nigel Farage. What Nigel has done wrong is unclear, although he did fail to win a seat in parliament. But then he did duly resign from the leadership, as he said he would.
The trouble seems to have started when, three days into Nigel’s retirement, he un-resigned. “I’m back,” he grinned into the cameras, or seemed to be. Perhaps it was gurning. His quick-change reappearance was ostensibly at the urging of the party’s executive committee, but it seems to have rubbed a few of his colleagues the wrong way, some of them presumably hankering to replace him.
No press intrusion here in UKIP-land. It’s a party that thrives on scandal and controversy, on the basis that all publicity is good publicity. Indeed, Nigel and his opponents have been so busy briefing reporters that the scribblers can’t keep up.
Nigel may, though, have lost the plot a little. Or so it has been suggested by unnamed sources. One of his most evidently ardent supporters, whose ardency seems to have disintegrated almost overnight, described his leader as ‘snarling and aggressive’, hardly the words of a devotee, however irritated, and of indulging in what the Chinese Communists used to call the cult of the personality.
Nigel, one might add, is starting to look a bit put out by all this. He will probably survive as leader only, and we won’t have to wait long to find out. This is a gladiatorial contest in a public arena, from which only the winner gets to leave. We should know by next week, if not even as I write this.
Up in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has hosted a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron, from which she emerged with her usual thinly disguised expression of suppressed glee, the one that says, “We have the English by the balls and we’re going to squeeze hard”. Mr. Cameron seemed to confirm the testicular predicament by hinting that he might even give the Scots more than has been hitherto agreed, and certainly more than would be for their own good.
The English can no longer ignore Sturgeon and company, with their 56 seats in the House of Commons, but they are content to be heaving sighs of relief that Westminster has a ruling party with an overall majority to keep the tartan horde at bay for a while longer. The hope is that a Scottish parliament with greatly expanded powers of self-governance, and with no English oppressors to blame for everything, will have Scottish voters to answer to if things start to go badly. And nothing goes well for ever.
Ask Messrs Miliband, Clegg and, yes, even “I don’t do politics” Mr. Farage.