That may be Eddie Izzard at the Yang Sing lectern, but the star turn at last night’s fundraising dinner for Manchester Withington was David Miliband, the foreign secretary, whose speech reflected the themes of his infamous Guardian article (download the podcast).
It’s great that Miliband refuses to be cowed by the fallout from that piece; it’s in nobody’s interest for ministers to be walking on eggshells because the press is desperate for a Labour leadership election.
Miliband is right when he says Labour should be proud of its achievements, but wrong when he says we should be humble in the face of all that remains to be done. Nobody wants a humble leader and there will always be much to be done; we’re a long way from utopia. The Tories never apologised for using unemployment as a tool to fight inflation or for rising crime or for running down the health service and education. Thatcher inspired the foolish by demonstrating her clear vision and convincing them she had a plan.
Anyway. I didn’t think anybody would notice my not commenting on these things, but I found myself sat with a couple of readers – hi Phil and Martine! – and they asked. Gordon Brown will not bail out.
It’s the media’s job to narrate the news, an emerging story with a plot that has yet to be revealed. Editors are vulnerable to speculation and tend to prejudge endings. Easily herded in a particular direction, they guess where the story is heading and narrate it in accordingly.
Last October, Gordon Brown disappointed many of us. The media had planned the story to include a snap election, but instead a triumphant summer ended with dithering. We were hit with a surprise plot twist: hero to zero and Brown’s downfall.
Yet the plotters aren’t up to the job and this chapter is dragging on far too long. That’s because the media’s favourite, David Miliband, is far from being the plotters’ hero. The real man of ambition in John McDonnell, who blogs forlornly at john4leader.org.uk. John is the architect of what’s been generously nicknamed the fag packet manifesto. Published in May it will actually fit on a book of matches and has generally been ignored.
No plotter is more tragic than Graham Stringer, the former Manchester City Council leader who led the city as it began its incredible regeneration, but is now infamous as the first Labour MP to call for Brown to resign. Stringer wasn’t there last night, but he was the butt of many jokes and is reduced to being described on the BBC as one of those MPs you’ve probably never heard of. When this chapter of the book is finished, Graham Stringer and his co-conspirators will find themselves forever sidelined.
The problem for the Tories is that this novel is due another twist and that leaves them vulnerable. They are currently riding high on ‘tired of Labour’ sentiment; in Scotland people turn to the SNP another party of the left. With so many pages to turn before the next election, with the exception of Brown’s resignation, anything could happen.