Could Chuka Umunna become Britain’s first ex-DJ prime minister asks Gary Gibbon on his Channel 4 blog, sidestepping the small matter that he would also become Britain’s first Black PM. The answer is ‘yes’ – on both counts – and if Labour hurry up and make him leader before the next general election they might just stand a chance of winning power.
I’m sure Gibbon was just being polite, fearing the mere mention of Umunna’s ethnicity would make his readers nervous. Maybe Gibbon might say it was the elephant in the room. Or maybe not, just in case he offended anyone from a country that has elephants.
The essential question, though, is whether Umunna is leadership material. And if he is, why isn’t he Labour’s leader now?
No matter how unpopular the Coalition gets Labour appear unable to lift off in the opinion polls beyond a steady seven to 12 point lead when they should be commanding something like a 20-point lead. They need to increase their lead to stand a chance of winning the next election but Miliband appears unable to take them to the next level. Well, the Miliband they have got anyway.
Would Umunna do any better? I think so. His TV performances are smooth, he looks sharp and at ease with himself, and his delivery is straight to the point and he speaks fluent human. How many of these boxes does Ed tick?
As a former policy wonk who understands the media he is tailor-made to help Labour get a set of eye-catching and coherent policies. I can see Labour’s presentation getting a makeover under Umunna but more than that he would generate a level of interest and excitement amongst the public that political parties cannot buy.
Some would ask is he ready having only entered parliament in 2010. Well, Barack Obama was only a Senator for just under three years before becoming President. Even Britain is doing fast-track that little bit faster. David Cameron was an MP for four years before becoming Conservative leader. Nick Clegg a mere two years before taking the reins of the Lib Dems.
While the latter two examples might not necessarily be a recommendation it is worth looking to America to see what kind of impact Umunna might have on Britain. Yes, this country is very different but we also share much in common, including a set of conscious and unconscious attitudes to race that would be challenged by a Black Prime Minister.
All the signs point to a more successful Labour Party under Umunna. Installing him as leader may be essential if they are to win outright victory in 2015. But Labour MPs haven’t got long to ditch Miliband. Will they dare?