David Miliband takes one step closer to returning to Ed Miliband’s Cabinet.

Dr Eoin Clarke is the Founder of the LabourLeft think tank and the editor of the recently published Redbook. We are hugely honoured to have another of his most recent posts; this time in praise of David Miliband. You can see more of Dr Clark’s views in his posts on his blog here.

David Miliband has put in an excellent 8 months as a Labour MP. In my view it is a matter of when and not if whether or not he will return to Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. If the press had had their way in May 2011 the story would be very different.  Remember, the leaking of his conference acceptance speech (had he been declared party leader) as well as the leaks about Ed Balls’s involvement in the plotting (or not) of Tony Blair’s downfall? These coincided with a guest appearance by the former PM Tony Blair at a Progress event in May where the former PM strongly undermined Ed Miliband in several ways. It threatened to rupture the Labour Party.

But credit should go David Miliband that it did not. David has worked hard to discourage Blairites from perpetuating disunity within the Labour Party and his recent words will be music to his younger brother’s ears. The elder Miliband has worked closely with his brother in crafting a speech on the Libya crisis that struck a balanced tone. He also came out strongly in support of Ed Miliband’s decision to change the Labour Party’s position on Palestine. Henceforth, it is Labour Party policy to pursue the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state by the UN. David Miliband also struck a strongly anti-Blairite tone in his caution not to use bluster against Iran but instead to pursue a path of diplomacy. Thus, David Miliband disagrees with Tony Blair strongly on the two major foreign policy questions of the day. On Iraq, David Miliband will probably never accept that the decision to invade was wrong but that is no barrier to him playing a key role in a future Labour government. The Iraq war will be taught and examined on A-Level History curriculum by the time of the next election. This positions him perfectly to return to the Shadow Cabinet as a ethical shadow Foreign Minister in time for the next election.
On domestic policy David Miliband has also praised his brother whom he said has led with ‘courage and conviction’. In addition, David Miliband has said his brother deserves ‘huge praise’ and that we in Labour should work hard to ‘put Ed in No. 10’. Tonight in his most recent comments he urges Blairites not to view David Cameron as stealing Labour’s progressive centre ground values that were pursued under New Labour but instead to view the Tories as ‘pretty hard right’. This will be seen as a blow to the leading Blairites who had been urging Ed Miliband to realign the party closer to the Tories economic policy which David explicitly states would be a mistake. He also urged Labour activists to look to the future in a clear signal that he is willing to accept that New Labour was an outdated model. In perhaps his strongest statement in support for his brother was the advice from David Miliband that Labour should be ‘humble about its mistakes’. This will also be greeted with dismay by opponents of Ed who had strongly criticised Ed’s willingness to accept past failings.
These timely interventions by David Miliband show that he is working hard to support his brother key economic, foreign policy and strategic political goals. In return, it appears Blairites will gain key concession in public service & welfare reform but the stage is set for David Miliband to return to the shadow cabinet before the next election. I expect it will take the same format as William Hague’s time in the wilderness where he was able to build his personal wealth and business interests before returning to play a full role in Cameron’s cabinet.
Polling wise the advantage to Ed Miliband of his brother returning would be significant. It would enhance the extent to which voters view Labour as united & competent and will provide a timely polling boost at a key stage in the electoral cycle when it occurs. In the short term this will come as a welcome boost to Ed Miliband as his brother seeks to rally Blairites behind his young brother.

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