Alex Massie

Ed Miliband is No Abraham Lincoln but David Miliband is a Little Like Hillary Clinton

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Are Labour really going to make Ed Miliband their next leader? Tea leaves and whatever passes for momentum in this race suggest that this is quite possible. If the younger Miliband - the one who, allegedly, can speak "normal" - does prevail then what hesitant conclusions may be drawn?

1. David Miliband's support at Westminster may have hurt his chances in the other constituencies. Miliband Major ran - in as much as this strolling leadership contest ever amounted to a race - on experience, authority and the sense that he was the inevitable victor. But as Hillary Clinton can tell you, experience, authority and inevitability don't count for as much as they once did.

2. Just as Hillary was wounded by her support for the Iraq War (without which Barack Obama might not have won) so David Miliband is hampered by the perception that he was the party establishment's favourite. Voters who think Labour needs to change are less likely to endorse the candidate favoured by the party bigwigs.

3. The irony, of course, is that David Miliband really is the candidate who seems to have given most thought to how Labour can change to win back lost support. (Here analogies with the Democrats cease to be of any use.) But he has been hampered by his association, wanted or fair or not, with the Blairite wing of the party. That's not the kind of change the party is interested in.

4. Strangely, the kind of Labour party that won three elections doesn't seem terribly popular with much of the current Labour party. So Ed Miliband, notionally offering "change" is actually the candidate of "more of the same" in as much as he's more closely associated with the disastrous Brown ministry than was his brother. This, apparently, is the non-change "change" much of the party wants.

5. This makes no sense. But if that's how Labour want to play it then fine. It's not as though the party has been offered the choice between a pair of political titans. The younger Miliband may well be more effective than his brother as a leader of the opposition but David seems more likely to actually persuade the country at a general election.

6. So if Ed Miliband does win then Labour, it seems to me, are settling for opposition, not preparing to retool themselves for government. It is not enough for governments to fail; the opposition must present a viable, credible alternative. For all his flaws - and, as was true of Michael Portillo political nous seems to be a large one - David Miliband seems a more credible putative PM than Ed Miliband.

7. Will David serve his brother? Maybe not. In any case is there anything more ridiculous than Ed Miliband scurrying around saying he wants to lead "A Team of Rivals"? You don't need to have known Abraham Lincoln to know that Ed Miliband is no Abraham Lincoln.

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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