Manchester Diary: What Miliband didn't say about the Lib Dems is more intriguing

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Indy Politics

Two words that Ed Miliband did not utter in a speech of many hundreds of words were "Liberal" and "Democrat". The omission is as significant as Conan Doyle's dog that did not bark. There is no surer way to win applause from a Labour audience than taking a swipe at the junior partner in the Coalition Government. Jack Straw demonstrated this in his valedictory speech earlier in the day. He peppered it with attacks on Nick Clegg and co. The audience loved it.

But Mr Miliband made only one reference to the centre party, and that was indirect. "Wisdom is not the preserve of any one party," he said. "Some of the political figures in history who I admire most are Keynes, Lloyd George, Beveridge, who were not members of the Labour Party." Indeed not, they were all Liberals.

He also threw a bone to the Lib Dems by promising that he personally will vote "yes" in the planned referendum on whether to reform the voting system, a subject on which Labour's shadow Cabinet is split. That was another sign that he is thinking ahead, to the possibility that there will be another coalition after the next election.

The night before his speech, Mr Miliband had a friendly 15-minute telephone conversation with Mr Clegg in which he promised to lead a "responsible" opposition that would not mindlessly attack everything the Coalition does.

Comically, this conversation should have taken place on Sunday, when Clegg was standing by to make the call, but the newly-elected Labour leader was so busy being ferried from one reception to another that he could not find time to speak to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Only a million pounds, Mr Bond?

Alistair Darling told a charming tale at the fringe meeting hosted by The Independent on Monday night. In the midst of the banking crisis, when many billions of pounds were at risk, the then Chancellor took some time out with his family to see the James Bond film Casino Royale. During the scene when the spy is playing poker, he tells his romantic interest Vesper Lynd that he will need another million pounds. She says she will have to ask the Treasury. This, Mr Darling said, made him think ruefully how easy it would be if he had sums that small to worry about.

What are they doing here?

Given the number of Labour MPs contemplating legal action against the News of the World over alleged phone hacking, you might think its editor, Colin Myler, would steer clear. In fact, he was in the audience for Ed Miliband's speech. Of course, he may just have been checking up on the effectiveness of the Labour leader's team of advisers, prominent among whom is Kate Myler, his daughter.

Flattery will get you... nowhere

With 50 or so Labour MPs standing for election to the Shadow cabinet, there has been a lot of inveigling going on in Manchester, and a lot of MPs promising colleagues their support.

But this will be a secret ballot, unlike the leadership election, so in the end nobody will know who did or did not vote for them. Hence this snatch of conversation between two new Labour MPs, overheard yesterday: First MP: "How many votes have we got?" Second MP: "19." First MP: "But I've made 39 promises!"

Quote of the day

'Dans la famille Miliband, les travaillistes votent Ed le Rouge'

Headline on French newspaper Liberation's coverage of the Labour leadership contest