Saturday, September 25, 2010

A quiet pivot in political history

So Ed Miliband has dramatically overtaken his brother as the favourite to be elected Labour leader with just hours to go. It's unclear whether the rumours fuelling this shift are based on an actual leak from the now-completed count, rather than on the general mood in each camp and on back-of-the-envelope calculations. But if the punters are right, this could be one of the most hopeful days in politics for a long time, as the conceited belief of New Labour's architects that what they had fashioned was irreversible turns out to be - at least to some extent - deluded. If, on the other hand, David Miliband prevails after all, a golden opportunity to construct some kind of meaningful alternative to Blair-Cam-Clegg-ism will have been lost, and for the foreseeable future the three London parties will continue to squabble (or, in the case of the coalition partners, swoon) over the same absurdly small piece of centre-right political turf.

Either way, then, this is a day that really matters. The Labour leadership is an elective dictatorship, and - whichever Miliband is elected - a fortysomething leader could well mean that this is the rank-and-file's one and only chance to genuinely influence the party's ideological trajectory for anything between ten and fifteen years. This is, in a sense, the UK's equivalent of the culmination of the Obama v Clinton battle in the Democratic primaries, with the winner having at least a 50% chance of becoming Prime Minister at some point in the future. Odd, then, that the country is scarcely on tenterhooks, and that in all likelihood a large percentage of the population isn't even aware that the result is about to be announced. But that's the price we pay for what has become the convention of holding party leadership ballots immediately after general elections, when public exhaustion with politics is at its peak.

UPDATE (1.40pm) : If the BBC and Sky are to be believed, it now seems pretty clear that the move in the money to the younger Miliband wasn't triggered by a specific leak from the count, as not even the interim leader Harriet Harman knows the result yet. That contradicts the earlier suggestions that she was to have been told last night, which would have been consistent with a leak. Pity.


  1. Ah'm in twa minds ower this yin. Atween the Millibands, Mr Ed wid be ma political choice, he's slightly closer tae whit used tae be Labour, an wid as ye say gie us an alternative tae the LibTories. But Mr David, lookin an soundin jist like a LibTory, wid surely further alienate the Labour vote in Scotland an so increase the chances o the Scots wakin up an votin fer the Scottish party in May.

    Ah hope Mr David gets it. The disappointment will kill Labour.

  2. I know what you mean, Sophia, but after the result of the general election I'm beginning to wonder if anything is actually capable of alienating the Scottish Labour vote. If the danger of Labour making a comeback in Holyrood is pretty high anyway, I've come to feel that we might as well hope for a more authentic social democratic leader in London.

  3. Weel, Ed it is then. Ah suppose he's fresh, an the whispers say he's mair tae the left, but whit struck me aboot the conference wis the absence o a Scottish dimension. Exit Broon, an exit Labour's relevance tae Scotland. As lang as ah can remember there's aye been Scots at the tap table, an usually quite a few o them. Noo ah cannae think o yin.

  4. Yes, and it'll be interesting to see if there's a reckoning for so many of the leading Scottish MPs slavishly voting for David M as the perceived likely winner - Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander, etc.