Sunday, April 15, 2007

 

David's Dilemma

If you were advising David Miliband(notice no-one ever tries to call him 'Dave'?) on whether to stand against Gordon Brown for the leadership of the country, how would you weigh up the pros and cons? Michael Portillo's article today helpfully identifies some of them; he is someone who, after all, seemed to be in a somewhat similar position back in 1997, and then again in 2001. First the arguments against standing:

Against

i) If he stands and polls negigibly, he may damage his standing in government and ruin his chances of ever standing again.

ii) If he does stand and loses, then Brown -well known for bearing grudges as Blair has discovered- might freeze him out of his plans for all time.

iii) If he genuinely lacks the ambition to stand- it may be a huge honour but being PM is a bed of nails we'd all agree- then he should stand aside. Major showed how a man out of depth really suffered during his time in Number 10.

iv) Brown, if he wins, is bound to reward him with a senior job in the Cabinet, even allowing for his youth and inexperience. [Incidentally, what has David ever done to date to suggest he even might be a good prime minister? Are his supporters merely buying into his 'unknown quality'? if so, it's worth remembering that Major was probably elected in on the same principle in 1990]

v) Blairite supporters may encourage him to stand but they are probably exaggerating his degree of support and anyway are only interested in advancing their own prospects not his.

vi) An election might split the party badly between Blairites and Brownites and contribute towards defeat in the 2009 election.

vii) I don't know what the union or membership sections of the electoral college are thinking, but everything coming out of the PLP suggest support from Borwn is decisively solid.

For

i) By not ruling himself out to date Miliband has probably earned the ire of Gordon already so he might as well go the whole hog and stand.

ii) Most of his his chief rivals have already ruled themselves out: Straw has thrown in his lot with Brown; Milburn and Blunkett have fallen by the wayside and both Clarke and Reid are dithering.

iii) As I've mentioned before on this blog, the Tory high command believe Miliband is the candidate to really fear: Osborne told a questioner at a conference I chaired in 2005 that they would much rather face Gordon than Miliband.

iv) Maybe the clinching argument is provided by Portillo: given the vicissitudes of politics and the fact that history is full of 'nearly men' this may be the only real chance David has of becoming PM:

If he does not grab it now, the opportunity may never recur. Brown will become leader, might lose the general election and condemn Labour to a decade in opposition. By which time Miliband will be a has-been, his best years spent fruitlessly harassing the Cameron government, for ever marked by his failure to seize the day, consigned to history as a vacillator. I can tell Miliband that this does not feel good.

The crucial moment will arrive on 4th May in the wake of the elections in Scotland, Wales and the local councils. if they are a disaster, David might well decide the 'tide in the affairs of men' has reached its high point, rally the Blairite Brown haters and take the plunge. Whether this 'leads on to fortune' or to 'shallows and miseries' of the kind from which Michael clearly still suffers, only time, and the extent of David's ambition, will tell.


[PS I wrote this before seeing Chris Riddell's cartoon in The Observer, which takes a rather similar approach to mine. Nor did I see this highly relevant profile of him in the same paper]

Comments:
I thought David has ruled himself out from the race by saying that Gordon will be the best PM. Ah ok I've just found the quote. He said Gordon would be "an excellent prime minister in waiting". I guess he can get out of that one.

I agree with Portillo if David ever wants to to be PM now is his best chance. The only other likely chance he'll have is a Labour general election defeat, followed by a one term Tory party failure. Possible but several ifs and years involved there.
 
Portillo's is an excellent analysis. I'm still keeping my fingers cross that I'll have the opportunity to vote Miliband in the Leadership election

I’ve set up a blog to support and report on the potential Miliband candidacy

See here:
http://www.thereisanalternative.wordpress.com
 
Mmm. Osborne says he would much rather face Brown than Miliband. Any particular reason to take him at his word?
 
Osbourne is talking complete shit. To paraphrase Kevin Keegan, the Tories would love it if Miliband become leader. He makes Cameron look statesmanlike, for heaven's sake.
 
Paul and P'holic
Osbourne could have been faking it I agree. My sense was he feared Miliband because of his youth- we even less about him then than we do now- as that was the big advantage Dave was so delighted about at that time: remember,'you were the future once'?
 
Don't agree with Paul Linford. Miliband doesn't make Cameron look statesmanlike; he emphasises how little Cameron has done in his 41 years.

Miliband has been minister for communities and local government, and minister for the environment. Impressive, since he's only been in parliament since 2001.
 
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