Why Chuka Umunna really quit the Labour leadership race

Who would be famous? It must be awful. I’ve never bought the “Well they earn lots of money” argument. Can’t go to the shop to buy milk without people staring, unsure of people’s motives and who you can trust. Sounds miserable.

My cynical gut reaction to news of Chuka Umunna standing down from the Labour leadership race because of intense “scrutiny and attention” was “Oh yeah...” Then I tried to find out what the Sunday papers might have dragged up on him. But his camp insist it’s nothing to do with the Sundays – and I believe them because Sunday reporters don’t approach a subject for comment so long before publication.

His mother and girlfriend are hacked off with the media attention, and this week his girlfriend’s 102-year-old grandmother was approached by journalists.

I hate the idea that we rob our politics of talent because leaders have to live in the spotlight, and people close to them are fair game. That said, we (the public) are giving these people a lot of power. Who they are and where they come from matters.

If a party plans to introduce a mansion tax on people’s homes, the public has an interest in knowing where those politicians live. If our MPs legislate on relationships and family, their own arrangements invite inquiry. Scrutinising our leaders can be a gruesome balancing act.

In fairness to the Cameron, Clegg and Miliband families, we didn’t see political spouses relegated to trophy wives, dragged on the arm at every photoshoot or foreign visit.

The next Labour leader has a backbreaking job, reaching out to the left who feel abandoned at the same time as charming middle England. The key line from Mr Umunna was that this Labour leadership battle may be “too soon”. As our Whitehall Editor points out, too soon isn’t never.

Oliver Duff is the editor of the i paper

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