The Mail offers testable predictions for a new leader’s prospects

September 27, 2010

Andrew Pierce writing in the Daily Mail reveals his deep admiration for the leadership qualities of David Miliband, and predicts the further decline of the Labour party under the younger Brother Ed. The article provides some testable predictions

The Daily Mail remains one of the Conservative party’s staunchest allies, and custodian of various values which may be threatened by the Government’s coalition with the Liberal democrats. So it comes as little suprise that The Mail is less than impressed with the election of Ed Miliband as leader of the opposition [September 2010].

Only minutes after the applause had died down on Gordon Brown’s valedictory address, [David Miliband intended to] savage Brown’s record as Chancellor and Prime Minister. He [would have] mocked the claim that Labour had ended the cycle of boom and bust. [and would have] warned that they had to stop burying their head in the sand over the need for swingeing spending cuts.

There was probably a leak somewhere, although the Mail report may be based on an act of journalistic creativity. Whatever, it was a good journalistic effort to discover the contents of a politician’s undelivered speech. Perhaps it was intended, as Mr Pierce suggests, to distance David Miliband from Labour policies associated with Gordon Brown.  That is a plausible suggestion (although the acceptance speech would have been delivered more in Conferencespeak than in Mailspeak).

The article went on to make the case for Labour having elected the wrong Miliband, wrong for the country and Labour’s electability under Ed Miliband.

Ed, whose speech when it did come was rather more measured, is already preparing to rip up the Party’s agreed pledge to cut the deficit by half in four years. The swaggering trade unionists who got him elected are all over the conference and the airwaves demanding no cuts in spending whatsoever. Ed will defy them at his peril. (Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, gave him £100,000 and will demand a healthy return on that investment.) As for David Miliband, his closest confidants say he is so wounded by his younger brother’s betrayal in standing against him that he may walk away from politics altogether by the next election. Their relationship will never fully recover — just like Labour’s standing in the polls under Ed.

Testable

Let’s do a little map-testing. There are various testable predictions here:

[1] Ed is already preparing to rip up the Party’s agreed pledge to cut the deficit by half in four years.

[2] ‘Swaggering’ trade-unionists got Ed elected

[3] Above mentioned swaggering trade-unionists are demanding no cuts whatsover

[4] Ed will defy them at his peril

[5/6] David’s closest confidants believe he has been “so wounded by his younger brother’s betrayal in standing against him that he may walk away from politics altogether by the next election.”

[7/8] “Their relationship will never fully recover — just like Labour’s standing in the polls under Ed.”

The argument is clearly put: Labour has elected the wrong leader. The election process was Machiavellian. The new leader will be in thrall to the Unions. The Milband siblings will be unable to work together. The Labour Party will never fully recover in the polls.

Some of the reasoning is based on attributed beliefs of unnamed sources close to the defeated Miliband.  However, the thrust of the argument has the merit of testability over the coming months and maybe years.


Miliband, Brown and the Heseltine Moment

September 23, 2008

An overheard remark by David Miliband is interpreted as evidence of his covert campaign to dislodge Gordon Brown. The treatment of his reference to a Heseltine moment is the journalistic equivalent of trading in junk bonds

One week on, and the city’s traders are widely criticised for self-centred avarice. Much the same terms could be used in the journalistic trading in a remark by David Milband overheard and turned into a headlined story.

The BBC report was no more reluctant than any other filed, as a story was eeked out of an overheard remark. This has, anyway, become accepted as legitimate journalistic practice. Bush and his remark to Tony Blair, and Cherie’s muttering at last year’s conference were recent examples. The practice is as unreflective of its dubious ethicality as were those behaviours of gamblers in the short-trading game over the least few months.

David Miliband has been overheard telling aides that he toned down his speech to Labour’s conference to avoid it being seen as “a Heseltine moment”

[He was] discussing his speech with staff who told him that it was being given six marks out of 10, and was heard to reply
“I couldn’t have gone any further. It would have been a Heseltine moment.”
His aide replied
“No, you are right. You went as far as you could. That was what the party needed to hear.”

His comments [were] an apparent reference to one of the occasions Michael Heseltine challenged the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.

Journalistic Junk Bonds

This is no more than trading in journalistic junk bonds. I would uncomfortably accept the right, duty even, of a journalist who had overheard clear evidence of the duplicity of a potential Prime Minister. Suppose Milband had said to his aide

‘Yeah. I almost blew our cunning plan. It’s not easy hiding my superior talents, just in case people think the truth, and I’m seen as being disloyal to Gordon’.

I might have (reluctantly) accepted that it was worth reporting, provided the words were substantiated.

But this does not have to be an overheard Cassius moment with Brutus musing over the time in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on the fortune.

Michael Heseltine was hardly duplicitous. His ambition was never concealed in public. Maybe Miliband was using shorthand to say

‘Yeah. It’s getting a pain to stay in second gear because if I go any faster I’ll overtake Gordon and get a twenty five second penalty, and dish my chances when Gordon finally runs out of fuel’.

There’s just not enough to justify the conclusions being drawn. For me, there’s not even enough to justify creating a news story out of a private remark overheard. Leave it to the junk bond traders operating in the gossip market.