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Where Is the Labour Party's Emerging Talent?

30/08/2015 20:30 BST | Updated 30/08/2016 10:59 BST

Alastair Campbell - Tony Blair's Director of Communications during his time as Prime Minster - has said in a number of interviews that he is perturbed by the fact that he has been asked back to "help out" at every election since he gave up his full-time role in 2004.

He said the very same thing to me when I interviewed him for The Badger, the student newspaper at the University of Sussex. Indeed, the question has to be asked, why are the Labour party not pushing through their new tranche of strategic communicators to help out their young, emerging politicians?

Stop. Wait a minute. Did I say 'young emerging politicians'? Who might they be then? Surely not Jeremy Corbyn, he's been around on the Labour backbenches, rebelling against the party line, since the beginning of time itself.

Perhaps Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper then? Burnham is hardly emerging and some would question his talent. He has, after all, stood for the Labour leadership before and would have come last if Diane Abbott hadn't thrown her hat in the ring.

Cooper has been surprisingly quiet in this leadership election and has clearly been preoccupied with working hard in local constituencies around the country to try and nullify the rising threat of Corbynmania. She will probably do much better than pollsters and pundits expect; just as the Tories did in May.

Liz Kendall just doesn't seem to have it, she seems to be always on the verge of tripping over her own words, as if she is perpetually being caught off guard.

So, going back to my original question, where is all of Labour's genuine young talent? Chuka Umunna was seen as the poster boy of the Blairites but has since shown - with his withdrawal from the leadership election - that he can't cope with the pressures of being a leadership candidate, let alone the actual leader.

There are some others, but they seem to be wary of ruining their political careers before they have started. They know that Labour will probably lose the next general election and possibly the one after, so they have steered well clear to ensure that they do not get tossed onto the scrapheap after electoral defeat.

Just look at William Hague and his time as Tory leader after John Major's disastrous election defeat in 1997. He was very talented, but Margaret Thatcher's shadow continued to loom large, and it prevented Hague from moving away from an ideology that - when compared to New Labour - seemed cruel and stale.

Consequently, he failed to refresh his party's image and he paid the price with a dire performance at the 2001 election. Speaking years later, David Mellor - a Conservative minister in the Thatcher and Major governments - said that Hague's time as Tory leader was "rather like opening a very good bottle of wine several years before it should be drunk".

That is why figures such as Dan Jarvis, Sadiq Kahn, Tristram Hunt and Chuka Umunna - after giving it proper thought - have steered clear of getting sucked into the leadership miasma.

They and others are waiting for calmer waters, perhaps after the next leader fails, in order to give them a better chance in 2025. For the many who don't like the Tories, yes that probably does mean another ten years of Conservatism.

However, put it this way, if Corbyn becomes Labour leader and gets ousted after a disastrous two years, at least then the introspection period will be over sooner. Then Labour will move back to policies that are actually capable of winning an election.