Was David Miliband marauding before the gun was fired?

THERE was an intriguing little tale in last week’s Independent diary. It’s a story that has been doing the rounds for a while. The question was whether or not David Miliband was running a “shadow” leadership campaign during the general election, when everyone else’s noses were firmly pressed against the grindstone.

The Indy reckons it has proof that Miliband Major was buttering up Labour members in safe seats rather than knuckling down to campaign in nearby marginals. The paper seems to have a copy of his campaign itinerary from 25 April that shows the then foreign secretary touring Burnley, Blackburn, Bolton South East and Manchester Withington, meeting “members and supporters” rather than actual voters.

Miliband’s people say the story is “absolute rubbish” claiming that the itinerary “was put together by the Labour party for David to follow, which he did.” Which is slightly strange. Why would the party put one of the best known faces in the government into safe seats rather than marginal ones? Senior members of the cabinet don’t get told where they must go. Most are willing to go with the flow, but some make demands that would make J-Lo blush.

We can see the point of David visiting Manchester Withington. Burnley too, at a pinch, given that it was subsequently lost. But the others? Blackburn and Bolton South East? Interesting to note that both those MPs – Jack Straw and Yasmin Qureshi – are now backing his campaign.

Asking around uncovers other grumbles. Labour sources complain of a modus operandi whereby David’s election team would only countenance campaign visits to seats where the great man would meet party members. Others claim that he wanted the telephone number of every PPC in every seat he drove through, so that he could speak to any he did not meet.

Nothing wrong with that, on the face of it; doling out a “gee-up” and a bit of TLC to the party’s troops during a campaign is hardly a crime.

So was David “10 yards down the track before the starting pistol was fired” as the Indy’s snout insists? Is all fair in love and politics? Were we in desperate peril of losing Blackburn?

If he is guilty of starting his bid early, then that is bad form for a potential leader of the party, especially during an election campaign. If, however, he’s being unfairly slighted by a rival campaign (as the Indy suggests), then it is a perhaps a sign that his opponents sense him cruising to victory.

Mind you, as the other candidates frantically scour the highways and byways before ballot papers go out next week, David has time to deliver “the most important speech of his Labour Leadership campaign” when he addresses an audience of supporters at the King Solomon Academy in Central London tomorrow night.

Aptly, the school’s website claims: “We live and work by the philosophy that there are no excuses and no short cuts to success…”

No short cuts to success. Quite right.

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7 Responses to “Was David Miliband marauding before the gun was fired?”

  1. Chris Paul says:

    What rubbish this is. D Miliband is not the top of my list. But I was present at Manchester Withington when he visited – as did E Miliband, with Leigh MP doing a public meeting, and Balls an early doors fund raiser if nothing else. We didn’t see Diane unfortunately.

    However, what DM did, having made an encouraging speech to 40 activists, was head off to a meeting with members of the Asian communities who were not for the most part party members. It took place in Burnage but I was told about it by a neighbour in Chorlton – the opposite side of the constituency – a couple of hours before it took place.

    Have no doubt:

    1. This visit was a significant help to the campaign;
    2. This visit did not win DM our nomination, EM got that by a whisker on the transfers;
    3. This visit did not even win over our PPC who is famously running EM’s campaign;
    4. Rochdale is not mentioned but DM got a nomination from our new MP there, and a public endorsement from that MP’s bessie friend Mrs Duffy too.

    Could it be that as Foreign Secretary DM was in these four locations to talk with activists and with the important asian communities in each constituency?

    Why is this contribution unsigned?
    Could it be that the author is supporting a different candidate?
    And did the Indy get the story from a not unadjacent source?

  2. Chris Paul says:

    PS Calling these safe seats when we lost two of them and were run closer than usual in the other two – despite this visit and others – is quite extraordinary. Please own up whoever gave the Indy the story and whoever wrote this story. Thanks comrade!

  3. Peter Watt says:

    I ran the key campaign unit in the 2005 election and the regional end of campaign visits in 2001. Cabinet members were given itineraries for visits and they had no say in the matter. Not in which seats they went to or what they did when they got there. We prioritised meeting members as they were the foot soldiers – regions were asked to ensure a members element to every visit.

  4. W5 Bloke says:

    My personal experience during the campaign supports this view. A few days before polling I was with a canvassing team in West Ealing, part of the marginal Ealing Central and Acton constituency, and we were told that David Milliband would shortly be joining us. When the campaign organiser turned up he told us that David M would not be joining us after all as he was still in the neighbouring constituency of Southall. Of course Southall is not a marginal constituency by any stretch of the imagination but it does have a very large Labour party membership and it was pretty obvious that he was campaigning for the party leadership rather than the General Election. Incidentally, Ealing Central and Acton still nominated him for the leadership (albeit by a very slim margin over his brother) so his no-show does not seem to have done him much damage with local activists.

  5. SW, London says:

    Sadly, the Indie – and whoever first tipped them off – had this right. So, a shame they were fobbed off by DM’s people. Yes, directions for regional campaigns were drafted/suggested, as Peter Watt described happened 2005. Unlike that campaign however, DM’s team did what they could to dictate their own terms. Where they didn’t get their way, visits were messed around with to make a point. If this wasn’t enough, some senior HQ staffers, anticipating DM’s hasty annoinment as the next leader, were complicit in allowing greater flexibility for his visit schedules – clever in self-preservation terms, but not very comradely in the middle of a campaign.

  6. kp says:

    Wasn’t Mandy partly running the campaign and isn’t Mandy a DM supporter. My understanding is that David Milliband did not oust Gordon because he did not have the support in the PLP and this is given a little more weight when either Paul Waugh’s or John Rentoul (i think Waugh) blog (in February/March time i.e. before the election) talked about the shadow cabinet elections, if Labour lost the election and how the likes of David Miliband and Douglas Alexander will not get the PLP votes as they don’t bother with the other MPs and are not as liked……now David Miliband has the most number of MP nominations….I wonder how that has all changed….mmmm I’m thinking possibly by brown-nosing them during the election campaign

  7. Adam says:

    Erm, since when have Burnley and Manchester Withington been safe Labour seats? Not since 2001 is when.

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