02 September 2010

Labour leadership showdown on C4 News

I tuned in to Channel 4 News last night expecting more revelations about Blair's A Journey (they didn't have much: my friend Chris of Virtual Stoa has done a far better job of digesting the interesting bits of the book via his twitterfeed) and maybe something about William Hague as well (they had even less on that). I'll post on Hague soon as it looks like he's been the victim of a vilification campaign by right-wing bloggers and although I'm no great fan of the guy, he doesn't deserve that.

But one interesting thing on C4 News was an interview with all 5 leadership candidates - Jon Snow called them "the Final Five" which must be some sort of coded Battlestar Galactica reference. Why, I'm not sure.

Anyway, on this performance, the smoothest two - the guys who could slot into PMQs and immediately start massacring Cameron and Clegg - are David Miliband and, perhaps suprisingly, Andy Burnham. Both were slick as hell. Ed Balls wasn't quite as smooth but he was razor sharp on policy. Neither Ed Miliband nor Diane Abbott were in any way slouches but I don't think they managed to get their points across quite as well.

I'd still vote for Ed M, though, because it's not just about smoothness. After all, Tony Blair was (and maybe is still) smooth as f***; but he managed to win 3 elections and delivered - well, more than nothing, but nowhere near as much as he could have done. (And the reason why, it turns out, was that he was basically minding the ship for the Tories to get back in).

I think Ed Miliband has a vision of where Labour should be at the time of the next election and more importantly, what to do if they win. David Miliband may have that as well, but as yet I'm not convinced. And the Blairite backing for David (which he has admittedly tried to distance himself from) shows the real risk of right-wing influence on his candidacy.

The main thing that came across, I think, was that the two Eds could work very well together as their policy platforms are quite similar. It's, if you like, a sensible soft left version of Blair/Brown; Ed M providing the public face and overall political strategic thinking while Ed B handles economics (minus immigration policy, where I still can't work out quite what he's saying about Central and Eastern European migrants but could he please change it as it sounds like a half-baked version of UKIP?)

So, if - as I expect, Ed Miliband wins the leadership, Ed Balls would be a good option for Shadow Chancellor. Osborne is a good political operator but an economic incompetent and will be regularly slaughtered at the dispatch box. Andy Burnham is certainly capable of taking one of the major shadow portfolios, as indeed is Diane Abbott (if she wants to do so). The real question mark is what will happen to David Miliband if Ed wins. Because of the inquiry into renditions and torture that may have taken place on his watch, it would be inadvisable, to say the least, to keep him in the Shadow Foreign Secretary platform; but anything else would feel like a demotion.

Decisions, decisions...

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