James Forsyth

The Pope might be coming but the Milibands are still Topic A at Westminster

The Pope might be coming but the Milibands are still Topic A at Westminster
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Parliament is busy preparing to receive the Pope, the red carpet has been put down in Westminster Hall and the Commons authorities have announced that they are closing all the bars down from 2pm on Friday. But it is earthly matters that are still preoccupying people here. As you walk through the gothic arches, you see little clumps of people gathering together trying to work out which Miliband will be the next leader of the Labour party.

At the moment, the race really does seem too close to call. But it is just worth reflecting for a second how crucial the new leader’s first few weeks will be. 3 days after the result is announced, the leader will need to give the leader’s speech at conference. Then just over three weeks later, he’ll have to determine Labour’s response to the most important spending review in a generation.

One Tory who was part of the Cameron circle in the early days think that Labour is throwing its new leader a hospital pass. His view is that any new party leader needs some space to experiment and that the conference speech and the spending review will mean that whoever wins the Labour contest won’t have that.  Instead, they’ll have to make decisions within that first month that will restrict their political freedom of movement for the next four and a bit years.