PA consultants believe comments could dent leadership bid for Harriet Harman

Public affairs consultants believe that Harriet Harman's comments this week have dented her chances of becoming the next Labour leader.

'Grandstanding': Harriet Harman
'Grandstanding': Harriet Harman

Critics have accused her of ‘grandstanding' with controversial comments on women's roles while Gordon Brown is on holiday after she appeared to suggest men were to blame for the credit crunch. She also told a newspaper one of Labour's top two posts should always be held by a woman.
 
Open Road senior consultant Jessica Frost commented: ‘Harriet Harman wants to be Labour Leader and she's never attempted to make much secret of that. Her statements about the need for more senior women in business, the handling of rape cases and flexible working undoubtedly prompted debate. But they didn't advance it any further, and exposed her combative approach to dealing with Cabinet colleagues.'
 
Speaking on BBC's Woman's Hour yesterday, Harman said there was ‘no point tippy-toeing around' and that she would not become a ‘shrinking violet'.
 
Frost added: ‘Harman's refusal to be a "shrinking violet" on women's issues does have a strategic purpose as the Labour Party is haemorrhaging women's votes to the Tories. But Harman is not the person to lead the fight-back. Her polarising style comes across as grating, and probably turns off as many women as men. This week is unlikely to have persuaded many people back into the fold.'
 
Paver Smith MD Dougal Paver added: ‘These are calculated comments.  In appealing to a narrow base of core Labour support they're clearly about positioning Harriet Harman for the leadership contest ahead.  The electorate seems underwhelmed, so they were a PR ‘miss'. Unless, of course, she thinks the election is already lost and is looking beyond that.'
 
Ruder Finn head of public affairs Hugh McKinney also commented: ‘While it is not clear whether her recent comments are a marker for a leadership push, she has always lobbied heavily behind the scenes in terms of her career and has demonstrated tremendous ambition and she will be looking up to the next position, which, in this case, is the Labour Party leader.'

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