Is there more to Mary Anne Sieghart’s piece than just wishful thinking?
In her column in the Times this morning the leading writer, Mary Anne Sieghart, is suggesting that the Environment Secretary, David Miliband, is planning a secret bid to take on Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership.
She writes: “..No one wants to talk about this publicly, and some fear doing so even off the record. Supporters of Mr Miliband know that his best hope is to reveal no ambition for the leadership until the last moment, after Tony Blair resigns. For now, he should simply concentrate on doing a good job at Environment. Even journalistic speculation such as this is against their interests. But there is no doubt that increasing numbers of Labour MPs want to see a proper contest with a credible candidate rather than either a coronation or a trouncing of a no-hope leftwinger. They think voters will believe that Mr Brown does not have a proper mandate if he simply takes over unopposed from Mr Blair. Then there may be pressure for Labour to call an early election, which it can afford neither financially nor politically.”
It is hard to work out from the article whether this is based on any real information or it is just wishful thinking on the part of the columnist who has never been a fan of the Chancellor. The scenario she suggests, however, is precisely the one I was thinking about when I offered my wager on their being a contest earlier in the week.
The momentum for Brown is such that the only chance of a serious bid emerging would be immediately after Tony Blair has set out his exit time-table.
But what a risk Miliband would be taking. If it succeeded he would end up as Prime Minister – if it failed it could consign him at the age of just 41 to political oblivion.
There is one characteristic that marks out leaders from other politicians and that is their bravery in situations like this. They see the opportunity and seize the moment. Who knows whether the young Environment Secretary has these qualities?
My guess is that if Miliband ran he would give Gordon a run for his money. The media would love a dramatic story like this and his youth would be a major asset. He’s certainly worth a small punt at his current price of 24/1. That’s far far better value than the 14.5/1 on the current second favourite, John Reid, who now looks doomed.
Punters have also got to factor in the massive realignment of prices that’s likely in the immediate aftermath of Blair’s announcement. All that would need to happen for Miliband’s price to tighten is the inevitable speculation that will follow that event.