The category for this post is ‘Countdown to Brown?’ because of the longstanding expectation that the Chancellor will move from Number Eleven to Number Ten when Tony Blair steps down. There is increasingly feverish attempts by the Mandelson-Byers-Clarke-Milburn axis to change that and the only candidate they appear to have is David Miliband. Is that the best Labour can do? Gordon Brown has his many weaknesses but is surely a better bet for Labour than the geeky Environment Secretary who will never out-Cameron Cameron? Labour probably have more chance with Brown – contrasting Brown’s seriousness with Cameron’s inexperience. You can also be sure that all hell would follow any successful attempt by Blairites to deny Brown the crown.
Up until now CCHQ’s strategy has been built on the expectation of a Prime Minister Brown but, according to The Telegraph, they have now established an anti-Miliband unit:
"The Tory response to Mr Miliband’s recent burst of speeches and media appearances has been to commit a small group of staff to the sole task of tracking his past and future utterances. The anti-Miliband unit will scrutinise his latest speeches, media appearances and comments on his blog. It will also dig into problems he has faced in his South Shields constituency. A Tory source said: "We would be crazy not to be watching him. It is obvious that a challenge by Miliband cannot be ruled out."
The article Mr Miliband has written for this morning’s Telegraph (and, I think, New Statesman) certainly reads like a mini-manifesto for the next stages of the Labour project and, perhaps, a leadership pitch. He divides the last sixty years into three main phases. After the war we lived in the ‘I need’ phase – a phase of history where government helped to provide people with healthcare, education and basic security. In the 1980s we entered the ‘I want’ society and the Thatcherite agenda facilitated that hunger for material well-being. Now, Mr Miliband suggests, we are entering the ‘I can’ years where people produce and decide – as well as consume and defer. He gives the examples of citizen journalism, home energy production, community justice panels and co-operatively-managed parks and public spaces as examples of the ‘I can’ era.
Milibandism all sounds a lot like David Cameron’s social responsibility and localism agenda (The Telegraph leader-writers certainly think so) and imitation is certainly the sincerest form of flattery. Miliband may be able to steal Cameron’s ideas but he cannot match his charisma.