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.