A Measure of Labour’s Problem
There has recently been speculation about the possibility of Alistair Darling replacing Ed Balls as shadow chancellor – a change on which Darling pointedly failed to express an opinion at the weekend. That is not going to happen, not least because Ed Miliband does not share the general high opinion of the former chancellor, having taken Gordon Brown’s side in the split between Nos 10 and 11 during the Plus Three.*
The other possibility – if it is accepted that Ed Balls is a drag on the Labour vote – would be to replace him with David Miliband. This had been less discussed, usually because it was considered “too odd” to have brothers in the two leading positions. I did not think this was a genuine objection, but knew that it, too, was not going to happen.
That, I suspect, is part of David M’s calculation. He could possibly have been shadow chancellor when his brother was elected leader, but couldn’t face it. Now, even if he could face it, he knows it is not going to be offered. Ed M has reconciled himself to fighting the election with Balls at his side: difficult as their relationship is, he gets to be leader – something to which Balls is equally reconciled.
If David M cannot be leader, he should be shadow chancellor, but it is a measure of Labour’s problem that he won’t be.
The other part of his calculation (I guess) is that he wouldn’t ever be leader either. If anything happens to Ed M before the election, Yvette Cooper would win the leadership contest. And it looks quite possible that Ed M might be prime minister after the election. Even if Labour lost, David M’s chances in the subsequent leadership contest would not be great.
However, it is not as if the party is so overloaded with talent that it can regard his departure with anything but a sense of foreboding.
Update: James Forsyth is kind enough to refer to this post in his comment on Coffee House, but I must take issue with a common fallacy. He says that David M wasn’t a good politician because he didn’t challenge Gordon Brown in 2008 or 2009, when James Purnell resigned. People have forgotten how the 2009 Cabinet revolt was fragmented and confused: David M’s resignation then would not have brought Brown down. That was because the MPs’ expenses scandal had only just broken, and Labour MPs were in no state to face the voters early, which is what they thought a change of leader would involve. The best chance of ousting Brown was Harriet Harman’s “cooked goose plot” of January 2010; it was at that point that David M was too full of ruth.
*Someone once described the Blair-Brown governments as not so much 13 years of New Labour but as 10+3.Tagged in: alistair darling, david miliband, ed balls, labour
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