Not sure if anyone else has noticed but apparently there’s been a Labour leadership election. Hard to believe isn’t it?
I’ve hardly seen any tedious wall-to-wall coverage of a contest which reached an inevitable conclusion weeks ago. I’ve definitely not seen Labour supporters reveal the worst of themselves and their party across all parts of the Twitterverse. And I’ve definitely not heard of the new Shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander MP – so I thought I’d have a quick snoop and see what she’s about.
Swindon-born Alexander is the daughter of an electrician and attended her local comprehensive. She did well enough to attend Durham University and earn a BA in Geography and a Masters in European Urban and Regional Change.
Prior to her election to the safe seat of Lewisham East, she served as a parliamentary researcher, local councillor and a deputy mayor. In her sole term in Parliament, she’s served as an Opposition Whip and a shadow Minister for London. Before her ascension to the frontbench proper, she worked as the Private Parliamentary Secretary to flash-in-the-pan leadership candidate Mary Creagh. Heidi Alexander in her five years in parliament has never rebelled against the party whip. In short, she’s quite different from her new boss. Yes, they’re both career politicians – but only one has spent his career rebelling against the party he now leads. Funny old world.
Miss Alexander is short of practical experience within the health sector but as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, she clearly has personal interest in the area. Unfortunately, her service as a whip prevented her from articulating her own positions on areas such as junior doctor contracts, 7-day NHS provision or anything about health at all really.
I’d love to say that Heidi Alexander will be a resounding success as Health Secretary, offering a credible alternative to Jeremy Hunt*. However, I can’t in all good faith say that, or even anything at all about what Alexander might be like.
Regardless, she will be a welcome breath of fresh air. Andy Burnham in his nearly six years holding the health portfolio, both in opposition and in government, did very little to convince many people that he, or his party, would bring about the changes the NHS needs to survive and thrive. Even if Heidi Alexander’s main achievement as Shadow Health Secretary is to not be associated with Mid Staffs then she’ll do more for Labour’s long-term electoral chances than Andy Burnham has these last few years.
*This is where I’d like to point out the pile of crumpled socks next to me is probably a more credible health secretary than Jeremy Hunt.