It is pleasing to see that later on today Ed Miliband will join the Labour leadership race. I’m pleased not just because it means we’ll actually have a contest to look forward to, but also because it means my prediction on January 1 that he will be the next Labour leader might well come to pass…
Of the Milibands, I have never been impressed by David. I have never understood what made him the “favourite” in the first place. I wrote about this last year. He is policy light, idea-free, but worst of all is not exactly fluent in front of the cameras. In the new age of TV debates, I don’t think his empty personality will come across all too well in this arena.
There was a chink of light earlier this year, however, and I slightly reconsidered my view of him. Maybe within that tired Blairite façade there is a real political thinker waiting to burst out. Oh, if only we could have a leader of a party that actually believed in a philosophy. The Milibands are, after all, steeped in a Marxist heritage. Not that that will happen, but maybe there might just be a little more democratic socialism, or failing that social democracy, under the skin than we think.
No. I’m dreaming. Of course not.
But of the two Milibands, the younger brother Ed has always been slightly more interesting. He is better on camera, without a doubt. He doesn’t have the same degree of uber geekery that David has. He looks, well, a bit more human.
Ed has always been associated with the Brown faction of the Labour Party, while David has always been seen to be a Blairite. Bear in mind that there is barely a cigarette paper between the Brown and the Blairite faction of the Labour Party. It is just a tribal thing. People like to feel like they belong to something more than just a party. The miniscule differences in emphasis between the factions are exaggerated to an enormous degree in order to pretend that you can only be one or the other. Boys, eh.
This distinction is important, though, as it will greatly influence where support is going to come from. It’s already obvious that David has the backing of a lot of MPs. Ed may pick up some Brownite rump, but if Ed Balls also stands then Ed Miliband (too many Eds – Ed.) has lost this third of the electoral college quite convincingly.
Same too of the unions. Ed Balls, if he stands, will get the full backing of them. Why that would be I don’t know. Labour, despite its pretence of meritocracy, is a real big fan of nepotism. The unions have always preferred Brown to Blair, but since Ed Balls and Brown went hand in hand, he will receive the union’s blessing, rather than Ed Miliband. Fortunately, each union member is balloted individually, so this may not be quite so important. It will, however, if it comes to the issue of how much finance each campaign gets to push its message out.
That only leaves the members. And if the members get a genuine look at the candidates, I think Ed Miliband has a chance of winning this third. John Cruddas, if he stands, will fare equally well, but there is just a chance that John Cruddas will stand aside for another candidate, and give them his blessing in return for a cushy Shadow Cabinet post. Could Ed Miliband persuade him? I think he could.
Either way, we’re in for a lot of novelty value of seeing two brothers locked in a deadly political battle. Both of them are still young enough that if both, or either, lose, they will get another chance, but by then there will be a new generation of young pretenders. This may be their one shot.
While only one of them has a chance of doing a good job as the Labour Party leader – Ed Miliband – the other might just be the candidate that makes the Labour Party even more distant from the electorate than ever. Aloof, brainy, nerdy. That’s not how you get noticed in the new media age, I’m afraid.
Fun times ahead!