Monday, 27 September 2010

Why David has to stay to back Ed

The 'will he, won't he' game about David Milliband's future has dominated today's news agendas. For what it's worth, I cannot see how either Millibrother will have much credibility left if David throws his toys and refuses to stand for the Shadow Cabinet.

Apparently, David is saying that if he stays the press will spend all their time writing about sibling rivalry. Secretly, I suspect he is also feeling immensely bruised and can't stand the sight of Ed at the moment. He'll come to terms with this, of course. And he'll realise that it's not Ed's fault that he isn't leader of the Labour Party. But such coming to terms will be a lot easier if he doesn't have to spend all his waking hours paying homage to his little brother.

But, however much it may hurt, the alternative - David riding off into the sunset - will be far worse for Ed, far worse for Labour and, I suspect, far worse for David in the long run.

It will be far worse for Ed because the absence of David will mean he will lack a heavyweight and experienced operator in the Shadow Cabinet. It will be worse for Labour because the media will run splits stories from now til kingdom come and the Blairites will see the absence of their leader as meaning they can have open season on 'the traitorous Ed'.

And I think it will be far worse for David because I think he may struggle to get the grandee position that will take him above and away from the Labour in-fighting. Both Brown and Darling are also going to be on the lookout for senior positions and Blair is still hoovering up anything that the Americans have influence over. Unless he is happy with the ambassadorship to Burkina Faso or becoming the master of an Oxbridge College then I really cannot see what David will be doing.

In a discussion on this subject on PM this evening, Andrew Rawnsley suggested that David thinks he no longer has a hope of the Labour leadership. The argument is that if Ed fails then they are hardly likely to turn to another Milliband. I don't agree with this. They stood on very different platforms during the leadership election and David was the only one being unashamedly Blairite. For all that Labour may be trying to distance itself from Blair at the moment, they have seen the failure of Brown and they may rue the new Old Labour ideals of Ed. If so, it might just be the case that they want to return to the ideology that won them three successive elections and David remains the best placed candidate for that.

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