UK Politics

Stand Up Mehdi Hasan, Future Leader of the Labour Party?

15 Feb 2013 at 06:51

I’ve never quite worked out how the Huffington Post survives in the UK. Millions of pounds have been chucked at it, and yet it’s a vanilla site with little ‘must-read’ element to it. Most of its comment pieces are PR puff and little else. Its news stories are ones that you can get elsewhere and it has now been reduced to running stories every day with the words ‘penis’, ‘breasts’ or ‘bum’ or other such titilating words in the headlines, seemingly merely to drive traffic. How desperate can you get? Here’s another one

I just noticed a link in my Twitter feed to an article with the headline.‘From Huhne to Eternity’ by Charmian Hughes, whoever she is. She’s written a whole article about how Chris Huhne kissed her when he was 14. Once. He then ‘got off’ with her best friend. Clearlry a bad ‘un then. This is the sort of rubbish we’re served up with day after day.

Since Chris Wimpress left any pretence at any form of balanced political coverage seems to have gone out the window. Mehdi Hasan, love him dearly as I do, has free reign to rampage with his interesting, but deeply unbalanced opinions. There is little counterbalance to his views at all apart from puff pieces from party politicians which no one apparently bothers to read. Mehdi’s latest article ‘On Iraq, the Hawks Were Wrong About Everything’ is a good example of the pieces he writes on HuffPo. Everyone else is wrong about everything. Mehdi is right about everything. Things aren’t generally as black and white as that. Take this extract…

It isn’t the size of our demonstration that those of us against the war should be proud of, it is our judgement. Our arguments and predictions turned out to be correct and those of our belligerent opponents were discredited.

Those aren’t the words of a commentator. They are the words of a player. The words of a politician. I make no complaint about that. Indeed I would love to see Mehdi in the House of Commons He’d shake the place up a bit and shake up the Labour Party. I have no idea if he has political ambitions, but I hope he does. He would be the Michael Gove of his age.

I remember in 2003 appearing on a platform with Michael Gove at the Tory conference. I had a go at him for always sniping from the sidelines in his Times columns. “Come on, Michael,” I said, “Get your hands dirty and stand for Parliament.” He smiled broadly and told me and the audience he wouldn’t be doing that as he couldn’t afford the pay cut. Within a year he was selected for the safe seat of Surrey Heath. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Mehdi was thinking of doing something similar. He might have to give up an income north of £200k to do it, but at least he might then have some power to wield, rather than having some influence at the margins. He’d probably be leader of the Labour Party within two parliaments. Now there’s a thought.

Five years ago no one outside Sky News and Channel 4 had heard of him. When he was appointed as Political Editor of the New Statesman back in 2009, most of us said Mehdi who? Within three years he had eclipsed most left of centre commentators and become the media go-to person for a left wing gob on a stick. Polly must have been seething.

Back in 2003, before he got into Parliament I predicted Nick Clegg would be LibDem leader. In 2008 I was the first to write that Ed Miliband would succeed Gordon Brown as Labour leader. I’m not predicting Mehdi Hasan will be leader of the Labour Party, but it wouldn’t surprise me if by 2025 he had done just that. If he sets his mind to it, he can certainly get near to the top. And I suspect when Mehdi sets himself a goal, he is relentless in achieving it.

Your temptation may be to send the headline of the this article to John Rentoul for his Question to Which the Answer is No series. I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to do that.

[cue the email from Mehdi saying "I can’t believe you’ve written that! It’s not in my mind at all!]

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