Are we about to get a black Thatcher?

I suspect the answer to this is almost certainly ‘no’, but in a new PoliticsHome survey out this afternoon, Diane Abbott has emerged as the public’s frontrunner for the Labour leadership.

There are a hundred different complexions to put on this, the main one being that opinion polls can be self-fulfilling prophecies at times. Some commentators have suggested that – given her high TV pundit profile – she is scoring purely on name recognition. But in that case, David Miliband has a problem, for she is ahead of him – and he was Foreign Secretary. Ed Balls is way behind on 7%.

Personally I think it’s the unlikely but strong friendship she has struck up on air with the former Tory minister Michael Portillo: there is something a lot of voters like about MPs from completely different ends of the spectrum being chums….Ed Balls, take note.

But however one interprets this, Party Big Beasts need to observe one thing in all seriousness: she gets a third of all LibDems, a quarter of Conservative supporters – and notably, more unaligned voters than any of the other candidates. On that basis, she would have (on paper) tremendous appeal in a future wherein Labour is going to have to reach out to real people much more.

If Labour elects Diane Abbott leader, I will eat my green gardening hat. The Labour Party has about as much idea of how to remain both principled and attractive as Lord Tebbit. It will probably choose the technocrat nerd David Miliband, little realising that he is yet another Party favourite (like Harman) who is widely loathed in the electorate at large.

Perhaps there is nevertheless a lesson here for those so keen to give television a bigger and bigger role in politics: that people who giggle, smile and get on with Tories might actually be good for the country… opposed to the narrow, bigoted hypocrite she is in reality.