I’ve avoided writing about the Labour leadership for two reasons. The first is that the arcane rules and regulations of internal Labour party machinery is so far outside my purlieu that I would need a telescope even to catch sight of it, and the second is that the whole process is by turns depressing, baffling and gut-wrenchingly, eye-wateringly tedious. I mean, it’s already lasted, at a conservative estimate, forty-seven years, and there’s still another decade or so to go.
And then there are the candidates. I have commented before
that Gordon Brown acted as a political Upas tree, killing all that sheltered beneath him. And so it has proved – look at them, Milibands, Balls, Burnham and, God help us, Abbott. Four ginks and a loon. Still, since one
of them has to win I might as well show some sort of interest. Lets start with the favourite.
Historically, of course, Labour has tended to pick the front-runner in its leadership elections (unlike the Tories, who tend to pick the one best placed to defeat the front-runner). Which in this case is probably David Miliband. And I suppose they could do worse. He is at least bright enough and has mostly resisted the temptation to play to the left-wing gallery. It’s a truism, but no less true for that, that elections are won from the centre. Pledges made in leadership campaigns may be playing to the choir, but the congregation is listening too. On the other hand, of course, Miliband D is unutterably geeky. This manifests itself not only in the obvious gurning and fidgeting, but in a dreadful habit of speaking like a junior manager at a seminar.
Now it may be that Labour feels that the best possible choice of leader after a shattering defeat is a bright young man with an unfortunate appearance and an uninspiring television manner. History would seem to be against them
. Whatever, Miliband D seems to have based his campaign on the David Davis/Hillary Clinton model of inevitability. It’s actually a good technique, so long as there are no unexpected hiccups along the way, but he hasn’t been desperately visible so far. Quite apart from banana-related disadvantages, Miliband D must labour under the burden of having been a central figure in cabinet for the last five years. It’s harder to campaign as a change candidate (and what other candidate is there these days?) when you’ve been Foreign Secretary – even harder when contentious decisions you made on matters ranging from torture to terrorism are still making headlines.
Whether he’d be the best person to take on David Cameron at the despatch box is another matter of course – he has to get there first.