21 November 2016

Everything is possible, David Miliband

I last posted about David Miliband on 23 May 2015, 18 months ago. I was writing just after a Sunday Times magazine cover story had appeared, Celebrity big brother How David Miliband conquered New York, and was following up earlier posts on the theme of whether Miliband would “do a Boris” and return to Westminster politics. Now, after so many major and unexpected events, there seem to be good reasons to revisit the subject:

The UK general election in May 2015 was won by the Conservatives. Ed Miliband then resigned as leader of the Labour party to be replaced by Jeremy Corbyn who was re-endorsed by the party membership in 2016.

The EU referendum in June 2016 came down in favour of Leave. David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and was replaced by Teresa May. She appointed Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

In November Donald Trump was elected President of the United States defeating Hillary Clinton.

When in 2014 I reviewed Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, I noted that “On David Miliband the adjectives pile up:
David proved to be an invaluable partner. He was young, energetic, smart, creative and attractive with a ready smile. We found our views on how the world was changing remarkably similar.
As Donald Trump might tweet, Very nice! And it wasn’t surprising to read Tom Newton Dunn’s Sun story in April this year that
David Miliband is expecting to be given a top job in the US government by Hillary Clinton if she is elected president in November. The New York-based former Labour Foreign Secretary has told MP friends that the Democrat candidate for the White House wants to make him a foreign envoy. … Mr Miliband [may] have to take up US citizenship to accept the job offer. And it would mean he will have effectively ruled out a return to British politics for good.
So in September, when Miliband offered advice (writing in “a personal capacity”) in the New Statesman on the new challenges for the British left post-Brexit, it couldn’t have been difficult for him to muster the equanimity to observe that:
[Labour] have not been further from power since the 1930s.
and that:
The main charge against Jeremy Corbyn is not just that his strategy is undesirable because it makes the party unelectable. That is only half the story. The real issue is that his strategy makes the party unelectable ¬because it is in many aspects undesirable.
and on Corbyn’s foreign and domestic policies:
There is one other element that is not only undesirable, but disastrous. It is the critique that everyone who disagrees with Jeremy Corbyn is in fact a closet Tory – or “Tory lite”. The US Republicans have a similar problem, with anyone to the left of the hard right called “Rino”, meaning “Republican In Name Only”.
But now the real megafauna are on their way to Washington and any prospects of Clintonian patronage have vaporised. And who should show up in London, as The Times tersely reported on 18 November (right), within a week of the Trump victory, but one David Miliband. Nigel Nelson had offered a more timely report in the Mirror on 13 November, David Miliband set to return to the UK after Trump victory- sparking rumours of Corbyn leadership challenge, The former foreign secretary was reportedly hoping for a position in a Hillary Clinton White House:
David Miliband is ready to come back to Britain now Hillary Clinton will not be US president. And that would allow the former Labour Foreign Secretary to return to British politics for a new leadership challenge against Jeremy Corbyn now being touted by MPs for 2018. A friend of Mr Miliband said: “He was only hanging on over there in the hope Hillary would give him a big job. “Now Donald Trump is president it is more likely he will come home.”
Nelson went on, in sentences that would have been more relevant had Clinton won, to review the jobs that she might have put his way, and his rather gushing opinion of her. At this point it is worth pulling up a quote from the May 2015 post:
"The typical term for the boss of this organisation [the IRC] is 10 years. He made a commitment to stay for seven, which takes him to 2020, but with, effectively, a break option at five.”
So, all Miliband has to do next year is find a safe Labour seat which hasn’t been taken over by extremists (unlike poor Hilary Benn) and which will survive the constituency boundary changes, get adopted instead of Ed Balls (an emerging national treasure on the strength of Strictly Come Dancing), be sufficiently pro-Brexit to defeat UKIP at the general election in 2020 which Labour will probably lose, be elected Labour leader after Corbyn resigns, pushing Keir Starmer and others out of the way, and then lead his party to victory in the 2025 election when he will become PM at the age of 59, almost 60. At least his age would be the least of his problems, the average age of world leaders seems to be on the way up.

We live in a time when the improbable can’t be ruled out and the expected doesn’t happen or, to quote Bernard-Henri Lévy:
If Trump is possible, then everything is possible. Nothing, from now on, is unimaginable.
Like a Brexit-driven UK general election in the first six-months of 2017, Miliband being inserted into a safe seat early next year, possibly assisted by Tony Blair's "new political institute", and a defeated and demoralised Labour party looking for a new leader?

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