I have known Jonathan Ashworth for a sobering, if not always sober, 24 years, and he has never been lacking either in ambition or in self-belief. He is clearly determined not to give Wes Streeting a free run in the Labour Leadership Election that is as much underway as the other side's is. "I wish I'd been wrong that people couldn't stand Jeremy Corbyn, but alas I was right" is very clever stuff indeed.
Apparently, there was another Labour poll lead over the weekend. It was not the 20 points ahead that Keir Starmer promised, and in any case these things never translate into actual votes, so neither Jonathan nor anyone else is even pretending to take it seriously. They are preparing for life after Starmer as surely as the 36-year-old Richard Holden's recent appearance on Newsnight made it clear that the 2019 intake was preparing for life after the 57-year-old Boris Johnson.
At least 10 Shadow Cabinet members went to campaign in North Shropshire, and the party's vote there collapsed. Members had been bombarded with requests for financial and other assistance. It is fanciful to suggest that that by-election was forfeited on purpose.
You can tell how desperate Labour is from the fact that it has started going on about foxhunting again. Neither Tony Blair nor Hilary Armstrong voted for the ban in the end, but they used it to buy parliamentary support for the Iraq War. If there are "loopholes" in that legislation, then they were put there on purpose so that the itch could still be scratched as and when necessary. The Conservatives have a similar approach. They could repeal the hunting ban if they wanted to, but then how would they rally the troops when the need arose?