‘The Lisbon treaty is your work as much as anyone’s. You pushed it through and you told everyone that it really mattered. You’ve been making speeches on the importance of the new job as EU foreign minister. You’ve said it is an essential tool of influence. Yet now — now — you tell me that you don’t actually want to do it yourself.’
Clearly Miliband wants a crack at the leadership, and the thrust of Finkelstein’s argument is that Miliband isn’t up to leading the opposition.
‘One other thing you need to think about. Would you, actually, be any good as opposition leader? I hold you in high regard. We don’t always agree (I thought your stance on the Lisbon treaty was outrageous, whereas you thought mine was idiotic), but I think you bring a fierce intelligence to your work. And if I discuss a political issue with you I need to be on my mettle. Yet this isn’t the same as being a successful candidate for prime minister, as my old boss William Hague discovered.
I think you would have to agree that your happiest and most successful moments have, ahem, not always coincided with your appearances in the limelight. You would be under huge pressure as Labour leader. Trying to hold off the Left, revive the party, be a convincing public figure when the media and public entertain doubts. For all your talent, it might not end well.’
Miliband’s problem replicates Hague’s from 1997-2001. He does not connect with voters and there is an air of absurdity surrounding him: banana brandishing and donning a baseball cap are from the same preposterous genus. Miliband may have missed a trick.