Chuka's withdrawal

Chuka Umunna was never considered to lack ambition, and had long been talked of as a future leader.  His unexpected withdrawal from the leadership race raises questions that reflect poorly on the current state of our political and media relations.

Mr. Umunna states that he thought he was ready for the pressure that being a leadership candidate would bring but had under-estimated the level of coverage and intrusion that it actually brought.  This does not appear to be a candidate running away from a potential scandal.  This seems to be a man who has looked over the parapet and decided he wants to have a life rather than run into the no man's land of leadership coverage.  In this, he follows another Labour MP who looked like a good bet for a party seeking able and empathetic figures to lead it, Dan Jarvis.  Mr. Jarvis decided not to enter the race because of the potential impact on his young family.

Chuka Umunna has done his soul-searching and reached a pretty rapid conclusion.  But I wonder if his withdrawal shouldn't precipitate soul-searching on the part of those who report on such things.  If overly intrusive and hurtful media coverage really does form part of the reason for his decision not to go any further, then we need to reflect on whether our hugely judgmental and often savage coverage of politicians needs better restraint.

Alan Johnson, another able and potentially effective quondam leadership candidate, once decided he wanted nothing to do with the top job.  Chuka has followed suit.  Are we really happy that we have created a media circus which actively turns able people away, and rewards only the monumentally egoistic and exhibitionist?


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