Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miliband positioning for the future

Our office watched the Miliband speech yesterday and we were immediately struck by how little foreign policy was raised and how much he roamed over the portfolios of his colleagues. This was clearly a speech that was positioning himself as the leader-in-waiting.

Yet he knows that he is in for the long haul. A leadership election in the next few months would see him defeated. I can't imagine Labour going now for an uberBlairite, and let's face it, that's all he is known as currently. But by summer next year, having done seven or eight months of shameless self-promotion, and having professed his undying loyalty to Brown (with his fingers crossed behind his back) he could be in a position to win, especially if Balls is his opponent and is seen as an uberBrownite. It seems that the Blairites have learnt a lesson from Brown himself. He set himself up as the only alternative to Blair. Everyone knew he was after the top job and his loyalty to Blair was only skin deep. That meant he could behave as a semi-prime minister, roving all over other ministers' portfolios. Miliband is now doing the same.

That leaves potential rivals with a problem. Were they to do the same, it would be raising a clear signal that Brown's days are absolutely numbered and that the ferrets are now fighting in the sack over the succession. For someone such as Balls, who genuinely wants Brown to continue (at least we can credit him with that), running a similar self-promotion campaign would be an admission that he had given up on Brown.

So Miliband is playing an interesting game that only he is able to do. The chances of a Labour leadership contest before the general election are small but that does not make any difference to Miliband. He clearly wants to keep his options open. And when Brown does go after the general election, Miliband may well have built up a stronger following in the Labour party that could boost his chances of getting the top job. It waits to be seen however whether or not at that point the Labour party is in a fit enough state for Miliband to want to lead it.

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