Sunday, 26 September 2010

David Milliband

So, after what feels like an eternity, the Labour party has a new leader. The years of strife and division under Gordon Brown can hopefully be put behind them. Whatever else you say about him, Ed Miliband is not Gordon Brown.

He inherits a bruised party, but one that is in a far better state than the Tories were after 1997. Labour's defeat in the election was nowhere near as great, and although the electorate did not want Labour, they did not want the Tories much either. After 1997 Labour had the New Labour experiment and Tony Blair, which was virtually bullet-proof for the first few years, whilst Labour have the all-too-evident fractures within the coalition to work on. New Labour inherited a glowing fiscal position; the coalition have inherited a mess. All of this means that it is perfectly feasible for there to be a Labour PM in 2015.

So whilst Miliband junior has problems facing him, it is nothing compared to those that faced William Hague in 1997. It will be interesting to see what happens next. However, I am more intrigued by his brother's situation.

David must have been devastated on Saturday. The media have been talking of him as the next Labour leader for years, even before the various failed coups against Brown. He was the most obvious 'heir to Blair', and, as Foreign Secretary, had filled one of the major offices of state. He is a serious political operator, bananas excepted.

So will he ever become PM? Personally I doubt it. He is 45, easily young enough to be PM sometime in the next twenty years. However politics is getting younger; the leaders of the main three political parties are the first, second and fourth least experienced leaders of their parties in history in terms of time as an MP. Ed Miliband has only been an MP for five years, and has only fulfilled relatively minor cabinet positions. One thing appears to be clear: the public like young politicians (or, worse, politicians believe that the media think the public want young politicians). The days of the elder-statesman PMs appear to be long gone, killed off by Brown.

It seems probable that Ed Miliband will be leader of the Labour party at the next election, probably to be held in 2015. If he wins, then it is likely he will serve several terms, meaning that Labour will next want a leader in the 2025 timescale. By that time David Miliband will be sixty. Too old, perhaps? Or would he still be keen after he sees the travails his brother, like all leaders, face. Politics has the habit of chewing people up and spitting them out the other side.

So what happens if Labour loses in 2015? Well, Ed may stay on (Kinnock stayed on after the 1987 loss). If he does go, then would the Labour Party really want the failed leader replaced with his elder brother? One of the great valid criticisms facing Labour in the Blair to Brown handover was that it was a coronation; replacing Miliband Junior with Senior would seem more like an inheritance. Additionally, if David is a part of his brother's cabinet, then the failure will also reflect on him.

Perhaps that problem would be overcome by having another leader serve in between the two brothers, but that would push back the time that David Miliband can become leader. Whatever happens, I cannot see him becoming Labour leader - yet alone PM - before 2020. And several other young and hungry Labour MPs will be snapping at his heels by then.

For these reasons I doubt that he will ever become PM, barring any serious changed in circumstances. And that has to be a personal tragedy for him.

No comments: