Yesterday, it was reported that Liam Byrne would be stepping down from the shadow cabinet to run for Mayor of Birmingham.
Welfare is a dodgy area for Labour - probably the dodgiest of all. Traditionally, it's a department for hawks, for hardliners and for attack dogs. I don't think anyone would argue that it has gone well for Labour under Mr Byrne. Or Mr Alexander for that matter. Or Purnell.Or Cooper.
Well, I want the job. I won't get it, but here's why I should :
1 - I actually understand Universal Credit. I know who will be winners and who will be losers. I know all the nasty little details that will hurt the "Squeezed Middle" way more than the "Undeserving Poor". I know whether Mr Duncan-Smith can actually deliver it on time and within budget.
2 - I know what the Independent Living Fund is and exactly how many profoundly disabled people are set to lose it or no longer qualify for it at all. Ditto the Severe Disability Premium, the Youth Premium (I must be one of only 4 or 5 who actually understand what this really means, surely?) the CSA changes and the death of the Social Fund
3 - I actually know the difference between the WRAG and Support Group. I know how many people qualify for each - both new and existing claimants. I understand the one year Time Limit and exactly who it will affect. I pointed out that it would only affect working families and that it encourages family breakdown and further benefit dependency.
4 - I know every little fib the Conservatives have used to push their Welfare Reform Bill through Parliament. I know exactly how many times David Cameron has "misled Parliament" at PMQs about welfare policies. I know which vast multinational companies stand to profit from "reforms" and I know very well that the balance of payments to these private companies is totally out of proportion to the "help" the claim to offer. I know that A4E were only 8.06% successful at finding work for disadvantaged jobseekers because I worked the figure out.
5 - I have lots of Lib Dem friends - grassroots and Westminster types - who would love to hear a different narrative from Labour on Welfare. I'm a pragmatist and I've built relationships with anyone willing to judge welfare on evidence rather than ideology.
6 - I know exactly how many "intergenerational workless families" there are (not many) exactly how many people are really "long term unemployed" (way less than you'd think) exactly how many families really get over 100k in benefits (a handful) and how many people stand to lose their homes through the benefit cap.
7 - I understand Personal Independence Payments. I know how many disabled people will lose all of their support and how this will tie into social care support, putting further strain on local authorities. I know what disabled people and their charities really think about PIP and how reform could actually be implemented so that it worked.
8 - OK, I'm a blogger, but I understand politics. I'm a strategist and a pragmatist. I have lived and breathed Labour politics since I was old enough to speak, I've run campaigns, always stood for local council, written election addresses, run voter ID campaigns and achieved swings of over 30% in an area so Conservative you could pin a blue rosette on a sheep and they'd still win. It's not my fault I live in Sussex, therefore never having any possibility of actually getting elected.
9 - I'm a left of centre Blairite! Yep, we exist. And frankly Ed needs as many as he can get. I understand the need for reform of welfare very well. But, I know the difference between "reforms" and "cuts". They are not the same thing. I grew up on a council estate, I went to a rough comprehensive, but I've been to university and, you know, actually had jobs, in the real world and stuff.
10. I have a narrative that could start to rehabilitate Labour on Welfare and a whole raft of policies that sick and disabled people and people living in poverty would actually like, would actually engage with and (whisper it) that might actually work.
12. I am fluent in "human" (also French and Italian, but that's much less important) and have a whole range of sardonic eyebrows and sharp one liners just waiting to show Grayling, Miller and Duncan-Smith for the fools that they are. I'm dead good on the telly.
13. I scrub up OK in black tights and heels - which seems to be a pre-requisite for 21st Century female political advancement.
But I'll stop on 13. Unluckily for some, it would be unthinkable for a "no-one" like me to get the job. Ed would have to slip me some Ermine, but actually, there's no reason why he couldn't (If it's good enough for Glasman....) The Westminster bubble might actually pop with shock if someone with knowledge, experience, passion and ability got the job over career politicians who have "done their time" on local councils and endless hustings. Shadow Cabinet members have to have a First in compromise, an unshakeable loyalty to the whip and one eye firmly on their careers. I may be wrong about this last bit, but most of the country feels that this is the case.
But if we really wanted to do politics differently, really wanted to engage with - and even solve - some of society's problems, really wanted to show the public that Westminster isn't some bloated old-boy's club incapable of change, then perhaps my idea isn't so silly after all.
Sadly, I fear we are some centuries away from such radical solutions.