Alex Massie

Alea Iacta Est

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Yesterday I wondered if David Miliband was aiming to be Labour's William Hague. Today it seems that he's more likely to be the second coming of Michael Portillo. His bizarre appearance on Jeremy Vine's radio show this afternoon during which he said, inter alia, that "I've always wanted to support Gordon as leader" leaves him with almost no room for manoevre.

He must stand and he must stand now or risk humiliation. Whatever his other faults, Portillo never fully recovered from his dithering over whether or not to challenge John Major. He had the phone lines installed but retreated from the logic of his actions - and indeed from the logic of his desires. That caution or, to put it another way, that funk, doomed Portillo. Miliband has surely gone too far to withdraw now. He may have blundered into this foxhole but now he's there he must grit his teeth, steel his nerve and mke his stand against Gordon Brown.

As always Fraser Nelson puts it well:

Brown must either destroy him, isolate him or yield to him. But Miliband cannot pretend nothing has happened. He has started a war with the most ferocious street fighter in Westminster. He must either finish this fight, or be destroyed. I am told his article was intended to signal "come and get me, Labour party". That's not how it works. Miliband has crossed the Rubicon and is now in 'kill or be killed' territory. And he has plenty to do if he wants to avoid the latter option.

If David Miliband didn't realise politics is a blood sport last week, he surely must now.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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