Alex Massie

Of Course Labour Should Pick David Miliband. Who Else is There?

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So, a "well-placed*" source tells the Guardian that while David Cameron would like Ed Miliband to be the next leader of the Labour party, he thinks the party would be best-advised to select Ed's brother David. This news, scarcely earth-shattering to anyone who isn't already a Labour party member (and obvious even to many of those that are) has Labour types suspecting some Deep Tory Game is Afoot.

Is this a bluff? Or a double bluff? Or a diversion? Or something else entirely? Both Sunny Hundal and Labour List's Alex Smith took to their Twitter accounts to warn that this must be some devious Conservative plot. Rats are everywhere and leadership elections are especially prone to infestations.

Well, maybe. I'd say only this: David Miliband is manifestly the most impressive candidate in a mediocre field and Labour, if it wants to win elections rather than just feel good about itself, would be stupid to pick anyone else.

Miliband's interview with the Independent on Sunday today demonstrates this once more. There's plenty with which to disagree but that's not the point. The issue is that Miliband seems to be asking some of the right questions and has a palpable awareness that Labour must, shockingly, actually talk to people who didn't vote Labour and take their concerns and views seriously. The piece is worth your time.

Anyway, this also struck me as interesting:

I said in my announcement speech that party renewal stopped on 2 May 1997. and I said on Wednesday that sadly I think Tony in his own way did love the Labour Party but too often he defined himself against the Labour Party. I think he still does love the Labour Party actually but, as he always used to say, he hates losing, which is a different thing.

But Miliband actually gets Blair right here: Blair won because he was able to convince his party - at least for a while - that they really were a bunch of losers and that if they fancied winning for a change things were bloody well going to be different. The public, disliking political parties, likes to see them cuffed around by their leaders. It cheers the punters up to see the true believers put in their place.

As Miliband says, Blair liked winning more than he liked the Labour party. I wouldn't be surprised if Cameron, deep down, thinks along the same lines. Certainly he seems - as Simon Heffer and plenty of blog commenters often remind us - ambivalent at best about parts of the Conservative party. (Though Cameron, of course, is more of a Tory than Blair was ever really a socialist.)

Still, this also helps explain why there's no heir to Blair in this contest and why even the closest thing to it  - Miliband (D) - has to tiptoe gently around the Blair Legacy. Nevertheless, he is the candidate best placed to rise above the party and, in so doing, change it for the better.

The others? Come off it. Ed Miliband is an actual, proper lefty. Ed Balls? Well, a great man for opposition (he'll probably claim a cabinet scalp at some point during this parliament) but not, no really not, the kind of chap the country will vote for. Burnham? Who he? Which leaves only dear old Diane. Well, quite. 

So, my Labour friends, this really isn't a Tory psy-op. David Miliband really is the best you have. But I don't know if you're really ready for him and anyway his biggest problem is that he isn't Tony Blair...

For more on all this, I recommend this post by my old chum Iain Martin.

*An increasingly common - and questionable, flag-raising - attribution. Readers are invited to speculate on the extent to which any well-placed source is actually well-placed to impart new or useful or even interesting information or whether well-placed might actually be a cunning euphemism for "chap who was available to comment/answered the phone/was in the same pub..."

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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