When it’s well-deserved, there’s nothing wrong in expressing admiration for a political opponent. From a Conservative perspective on the Labour Party, Frank Field obviously tops the list, followed by other decent sorts such as Kate Hoey, Tom Harris, Gisela Stuart and David Lammy. The only downside to such blue-on-red respect is that it is unlikely to do its recipients any favours with their own colleagues.
But perhaps that’s just as well.
An economically-literate and socially conservative Labour Party would be a formidable, indeed unbeatable, opponent. Tony Blair, who created the illusion of such virtues, won three elections – so just imagine what the real deal could achieve.
With this threat in mind, we ought to keep a wary eye on Stella Creasy, one of the few genuine stars in the 2010 intake of Labour MPs. Interviewed by Patrick Wintour in the Guardian, she speaks no end of good sense:
- "In the next spending review absolutely everything should be on the table and the onus should be not just in the government, but the public, the private sector and the third sector to say where could we work together. We don't need just to switch spending, we need to pool spending.
- "Wasting money is not progressive. When the poorest people in our country pay the most tax, the value for money agenda is a progressive agenda."
Well known for her campaigns against loan sharks (of the legal and illegal varieties) she is also concerned about another kind of debt – the national debt:
- "The fact is this year we get a trillion pounds of public debt and if we carry on as we are we are going to hit £1bn a week debt repayments by 2014. I campaign about household debt and loan sharks, but I cannot ignore public debt, and its impact on people in my constituency."
She also appears to understand that what really counts isn’t how much money we spend on public services, but the effectiveness with which it is spent:
- "In a way I think the biggest challenge for the left is not going to be money. I think it is going to be control, and being willing to devolve more power to local level, but devolve again and argue: 'If we are going to resolve this you as a user need to have not just more say, but more responsibility.' But I think that is where the public are."
Even worse, she seems to understand what the Big Society is – or should be – about:
- "If the Olympics shows anything it shows the number of people volunteering wanting to be part of something, is huge. People feel that like their local areas and families. It's not about the government getting out the way, it's about being partners."
Obviously, the appropriate Conservative response to all of this is to make sure that it’s our party that takes the lead on all of these issues. But until then, let’s take every opportunity to remind Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper that Stella Creasy stands for everything that they’re most afraid of.