Sunday, April 01, 2007

Milliband should run - but won't

All the recent speculation about whether or not Milliband will run rather miss the point. He should.

I start with the assumption that he wants to be Prime Minister. My evidence? He is a politician. The Pope is Catholic.

Given this - why should he not take the gamble and go for it? The scenario under which not running make sense is that Labour will lose the next election, then David Cameron loses the next Election - and we'll get Prime Minister Milliband.

This assumes several things:
  • That Labour will lose the next election. Given current opinion poll trends this would appear worth a bet.
  • That David Cameron will prove a shallow and unsuccesful PM and lose the following election. Possible.
  • That the Labour Party in opposition will maintain its discipline and hold together - meaning that the next Labour leader could bounce back to power after a brief interim in Opposition. Hmm.

All this would mean that David Milliband could pull off what William Hague could not. Step in to the leadership of a party that will have been exhausted by over a decade in power, and with some unfinished squabbles to settle. And go on to win.

I'm not sure what Milliband can lose by running. The various threats to his career are aggressively unsubtle - whether from Beckett or un-named Brownite sources. But if Brown wants to win a General Election he has to prove himself able to manage a big tent, and therefore casting out one of the few remaining talents in the Labour front ranks from spite would be seen as yet more proof of Stalinist tendencies.

Running a smart campaign would raise Milliband's profile, especially outside the Labour Party. He would be guaranteed good media coverage as the press are desperate for a battle; a new story after the years of Blair / Brown duopoly. He would go from a smart egghead to a real contender-in-waiting. Look how improved Chris Huhne's status was by his daring bid for the LibDem leadership.

And it would be good for the Labour Party. An open debate might actually help refresh the Labour Party - vital given the current intellectual exhuastion on display. It might even be good for Gordon Brown - he would be seen to have beaten a serious challenger. He would be forced to have a debate - and show that he can actually win an electoral contest.

For Milliband there is also the simple problem of timing: it is rare that you get a second opportunity. The alternative is to blink and not go for the race. When, with courage, he might have won. In short, Michael Portillo.

Portillo or Hague? Great choice. David Milliband - run!

PS If he did run, its likely that he would lose the internal party vote, but he might just win the popular outlook outside the Party. But of course he won't run. His articles and general comments suggest that he would so love to run. But can't quite bring himself to do so. Shame.