It’s fun isn’t it, all this speculation about a leadership challenge to David Cameron? It was obvious really in the run-up to party conference season. We all needed a new narrative. Last year we enjoyed giving Ed Miliband a good kicking and his ‘anti-business’ conference speech played into the hands of his critics. The infantile booing of Tony Blair’s name by delegates made it look like the party was determined to make itself unelectable.
But the reality now – and there are plenty on the left as well as the right who still find this a scary prospect – is that Ed Miliband is the man most likely to be the next prime minister. Looking back, the speech looks rather prophetic with its appeal for a shift in the country’s cultural values in favour of ‘grafters’. Ed may have turned a little red for some people’s tastes but he captured something of the public mood.
Jenni Russell, a friend of the Labour leader but one of his fiercest critics at the time of last year’s speech, is right to warn of the dangers of complacency in the Labour ranks:
‘This should, then, be a good moment for Labour. It is in fact a dangerous one. The temptation is for Labour’s leaders to think that they can relax a little, in the belief that they have a comfortable poll lead, a convincing argument on the economy, and time to refine their remaining ideas on how to run the country more effectively. None of these things are true. Labour has won nothing yet except the chance to be heard. For the first time since the 2010 election, large numbers of voters have a grudging curiosity about Labour’s alternatives. The party must move fast to capitalise on that.