Although Peter Mandelson has said many times he will not endorse a Labour Leadership candidate it seems clear from his book ‘The Third Man’ that he has a more than favourable opinion of David Miliband. Early on he writes of David Miliband’s 2008 Labour conference speech and notes: “David spoke eloquently, and ranged far beyond his brief as foreign secretary. In parts, he sounded very much like a leader in waiting”.
It is telling how early this line appears in the book despite his protestations about not wanting to endorse. Just prior to that line, Mandelson quotes Tony Blair talking about how increasingly impressed he is by David Miliband’s strength and political instinct.
At a briefing to bloggers this morning I asked Mandelson whether he stood by his assessment of David Miliband as a “leader in waiting”. He said “yes and no”, refusing to endorse him, but then proceeding to do everything but (whilst saying that some of the qualities he was highlighting existed in other candidates).
“Yes and no, yes in the sense that I think he is eminently qualified to be leader of be Labour Party and no as I won’t endorse.”
Asked why he thought Miliband was eminently qualified Mandelson pointed to his experience and character.
“He has the experience of a wealth of different government departments in which he was a reformer, a strong leader and manager, and in policy terms excelled. Secondly he has good judgement and good emotional instincts for the British electorate.”
Asked if he thought David Miliband was too much of a Blairite and voice of New Labour, as some in the Labour Party argue, he dismissed such talk.
He said what was needed was someone who has lived through the past and “delivered on a whole range of policy areas” added that there was no point in going for “an old hand” who hasn’t bothered or isn’t capable of rethinking”. Who could that be?
He also said that New Labour wasn’t going away, that it wasn’t a passing fad, but it had been a way of thinking about understanding the party and the need for change. He said he feared that some in a race to distance themselves from the past government would draw the wrong conclusions and as a result end up spending years in opposition.
Mandelson also praised the recent speech by (the DMiliband supporting) shadow industry secretary, Pat McFadden, to the Fabian Society. McFadden told the party “Labour must not head into a comfort zone of wishing away the need to cut spending” but tell the electorate what it would do differently. To have an argument and a vision, not simply a fight cuts slogan.
Okay so I know he doesn’t endorse him, but it is the qualities, strengths and skills that Mandelson highlighted today and in his book regarding David Miliband that for me are the reasons why he should be the next leader of the Labour Party. He had the skills, the knowledge and a growing base of support — he has raised 12 times the amount of cash for his campaign than his brother Ed Miliband who yesterday got the backing of the GMB. It urged its members to nominate the junior Miliband.