Milliband May Have The Jazz, But Do I Really Care?

I listened to the speech David Milliband gave yesterday announcing his intention to stand for the Labour leadership in the coming contest -- if you can call anything a contest when there is only ever going to be one winner -- and felt a tiring sense of deja-vu about his words.

He is probably exactly what Labour needs to get elected to Government again. His Obama-ish rhetoric about humility and public service, and his declared plan to tour constituencies Labour didn't win talking to voters about the reasons why certainly sounded statesmanlike.

But haven't we, or at least I, been here before? Yes: in '83/'84, under Neil Kinnock, after Michael Foot stood on principle rather than pragmatism and Labour was hammered by Margaret Thatcher, and then in '93 or '94, whenever it was Tony Blair stood for the leadership. Kinnock made Labour electable again, somewhat to the cost of his own principles and trade unionism, and Blair (and Brown) did some wonderful things and some very bad things; but I questioned, listening to Milliband talk, whether I had the stomach to go through the whole rebranding-of-Labour process again.

Rebranding, after all, is what it is, even in terms of the policy changes. The exercise is to find a way to re-sell Labour to the country, as if it were a bar of soap or an energy drink. And unlike Kinnock (who I came eventually to admire) I do not imagine this Labour leader --we'll pretend we don't know it's David Milliband -- will need to be overdramatic in any changes he makes, unless he is to move Labour even further to the right. The manifesto that Labour stood on this time was a reasonable one, with the exception of the PR blunder their National Insurance policy proved to be. If they'd stroked the press barons and Gordon Brown had been smarmier and less funereal they might have won.

Perhaps I'm suffering from post-Election ennui. Or perhaps I'm just getting too old. I have, after all, been a political junkie for a very, very long time now.

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