Manchester Diary: Keep your enemies close (and your brother even closer)
Tuesday 28 September 2010
As Ed Miliband delivers his speech to the Labour Party conference today, he will need to keep in mind that a newly elected leader has only a few days in which to define who he is, or have his enemies do it for him. In his case, the most dangerous enemies are the people who supported his brother.
While some of David M's former backers have made up their minds to accept defeat gracefully, the ones that should give Ed M cause to worry are those who are putting it about that he is in the pocket of the union barons, and a vote loser.
One eminent David M supporter, referring to Neil Kinnock's public endorsement of Ed, and Tony Blair's discreet support for David, said: "What does it tell you about us [Labour] that an endorsement from Kinnock is a 'good thing', and an endorsement from Blair is a 'bad thing'? It just shows that we're a party of losers."
To stop that kind of talk, Ed M is going to have to make several serious gestures to soothe the hurt feelings of his brother's supporters. Offering David the shadow chancellorship is one obvious move, with the additional advantage that it gives him an excuse not to offer it to Ed Balls, who could yet be his most formidable rival.
But would David M accept the job? The only thing he would say yesterday was that anyone who speculates about what he might do next is speaking from ignorance. If he has made up his mind, he is not telling anyone.
Which does not stop some of his former supporters from speculating with great confidence that he is going to quit politics altogether. "I know," one said, "because I always know – just like I knew David was going to win."
Labour's mystery voter unmasked?
One of David Miliband's disgruntled supporters was briefing heavily yesterday against Glenda Jackson, whose local party backed David M while she, allegedly, was "too lazy" to vote at all. Her name certainly does not appear in the official results, published on the Labour Party website. But they do record that a "Mrs G Hodges MP" voted for Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. No MP of that name appears in any reference book. In the 1950s, a very young Glenda Jackson married Roy Hodges, but they were divorced a lifetime ago. Could she and "Mrs G Hodges MP" be linked in any way?
What are they doing here?
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, is the only Cabinet minister to have shown his face. Separately and coincidentally, Carina Trimingham, of the Electoral Reform Society, was also to be seen around the conference hall. Her name and his, you may recall, were linked earlier this year in a manner that must have been most distressing for Vicky Pryce, Huhne's wife.
Flynn in a hole of his own making Flynn digs himself out of a hole
Paul Flynn, the witty, maverick Labour MP who made Ed Miliband his fifth choice from a field of five – the only MP to make that career-bombing choice – is not in Manchester for the conference but in his constituency in Newport, where he says he has more important things to do. But, he insists, putting that figure 5 next to Ed Miliband's name has "no political significance". He told me cheerfully: "It is time to bury the old Blair-Brown thing six feet underground with six feet of concrete on top. We must all unite and pull together. I am oozing loyalty." It will take that and more.
Quote of the day
'They are the Ant and Dec of Labour politics. Most people can't tell them apart' - Pollster Andrew Cooper, of Populus, on the public perception of the Miliband brothers
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