It is that time of year to do a political review and give predictions for 2013:
Labour: this year we said goodbye to some great Labour figures - whether it was John Healey confined to the backbenchers or Jim Murphy demoted. But my favourite line was when Jack Straw was being hailed, shortly after his retirement was announced for his long service, and he shot up to announce: "I am not dead yet!"
My congratulations for 2013, however, go to Paul Blomfield, for his campaign on pay day lending. He is both a friend of mine and a good MP, and he carried on what Stella Creasey started.
The common sense star of the year is an unlikely choice. Eric Joyce is a maverick, a delight to talk to but struggling with demons, notably drink. But he is also very wise, and very critical of political correctness, which definitely exists in spades in parts of the Labour Party. I liked this recent Spectator piece on him:
It is genuinely worth a read.
Clearly the rise of the very upper class Tristram Hunt proves the theory of the article wrong but...
My Labour MP to watch in 2014 in the Commons is Natascha Engel, the chair of the backbench business committee, and someone who is being talked about on all sides as the next Speaker, if she wants it. Unlike many MPs on all sides she does the job for all the right reasons, and is much liked.
Conservative: although Sajid Javid is clearly one to watch for the long term leadership, one new ministerial name stands out for me. The rising star of 2013, and a likely star of 2014, is Nicky Morgan, recently Promoted into the Treasury. Some people fit naturally into the job and she has really impressed in the Commons. My guess is that she will be promoted again, as the PM seeks to promote more women up the ministerial ladder.
As to the big guns. ... The cabinet will not stay the same all the way until the general election and there will be opportunities for other middle ranking ministers to get promoted. All of us in the parliamentary party admired in particular Alastair Burt, who was an outstanding minister at the foreign office; he should be given another job if at all possible.
If I had to pick one 2010 Conservative backbencher who should have been promoted, but was not, then I would select the outstanding Paul Uppal, MP for Wolverhampton SW. He is a mate of mine, but he typifies the new Conservative party of 2010 and beyond. Bear in mind he represents the seat of Enoch Powell ... and he is an ethnic son of a migrant: his wiki site is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Uppal
Liberal: their best backbencher is definitely Duncan Hames, but my star of the year is Jeremy Browne. In effect, his predicament defines so much of what ails the Lib Dems. I worked with him at the Home Office, and although Norman Baker has been an excellent and entirely reliable replacement, Jeremy was sacked by Clegg for no reason at all. What the liberals do next almost defines which way the liberal democrat party will go? They have an upcoming Deputy Leadership election and it will decide their direction of travel. Do they go left wing, and try to become even more left wing than the Labour Party? If so then there are plenty of options like Sarah Teather or Tessa Munt they could choose. Or do they advocate liberal beliefs in a modern orange book world of fiscal discipline and pragmatism. If so they should choose an orange book liberal like Jeremy. I fear that they will go left wing. Given the electoral projections for 2015 that has very significant consequences for this country.