Leadership: a sense of history; knowing one’s own mind; being prepared to go it alone; understanding the need to be respected, if not loved. Timeless qualities embodied or expressed by every great leader or political philosopher from Churchill to Machiavelli.
There is a common theme, frequently expressed, that if Labour had appointed David Miliband, their troubles would be relatively minor. The problem, we are told, is Ed. For example there is Fraser Nelson in the Spectator, claiming that there would be have been no need for Labour to recalibrate their views on the economy, education etc, with Mili-D, as he would already have been there, talking the Tony talk, with his tanks on the Tories’ lawn.
Here are the YouGov poll results on possible Labour leaders. Mili-D comes second as best Labour leader with 21% of those polled. Unfortunately the winner, with 32% was The Knife’s choice: “none of them would be any good”. Mili-E creeps in at 7%.
Is Mili-D the natural choice? Up to a point, such is the fabulous uselessness and zero appeal of Mili-E, but The Knife feels that Ed’s failure is just making David look slightly less useless. Here are a few points to consider:
1. Mili-D is also a major geek. The famous banana picture was no accident.
2. He had no balls when push came to shove during the Brown terror. Too scared to say anything publicly, he briefed and machinated away behind the scenes to bring down Brown. Even a New Labour wuss like James Purnell showed higher testosterone levels.
3. He still had no balls when the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs post was offered him on a plate. He ended up staying around UK politics hoping that some sort of faction would conspire against Brown and anoint him, Mili-D. Shades of another testosterone-free ambitious chancer: Michael Portillo. Mili-D still wouldn’t move openly against Brown – who at least had a certain dogged tenacity under pressure – and saw the EU job go to the completely anonymous unelected disaster, Baroness Ashton.
4. He had a good job – Foreign Secretary – but did anything memorable happen under Mili-D? Well, he patronised the Indians and spent a night in a mud hut; he promoted the appalling Lisbon treaty; he applauded terrorism in a childish outburst…etc etc. To quote the Indian opposition spokesman: “In recent years, there has been no bigger disaster than David Miliband’s visit.”
6. This is a biggie. Not well known, but very illustrative of Mili-D’s real persona, as explained by Peter Oborne:
in a barbaric and near-criminal act, David Miliband ordered the closure of the Foreign Office library, containing the records of 500 years of Britain’s overseas entanglements, including the original copies of all our treaties. This institution was described by Gladstone’s foreign secretary, Lord Granville, as “the pivot on which the whole machinery of the Office turned”. Recently, I inspected its empty shelves, their contents having been dispersed, some turning up on eBay: it was both too sad for words, and a piquant symbol of New Labour’s neglect of the lessons of history, for which British soldiers have paid such a price in Afghanistan and Iraq.
To further quote his successor, William Hague:
“I was surprised and indeed shocked upon my arrival here by the sight of the vast expanse of empty wooden shelves where once the 60,000 books, pamphlets, reports and manuscripts of the historic Foreign Office library were housed, here in this building.
“The library embodied 500 years of British and world history; of our experiences of exploration, diplomacy, war, peacekeeping and the forging of treaties; of our role in the abolition of the slave trade and the creation of the Commonwealth.”
What sort of completely ahistorical prick would do that? Is this is a fit man to lead a sovereign nation, to send soldiers into battle? Prodicus puts it more eloquently than I can manage.
So, to my friends in the Labour Party: go ahead and have your coup. Mili-D won’t lead it, not until he’s had his spine transplant, but he’ll be waiting in the wings for the call.
Never before has someone with such obvious limitations been touted so relentlessly for the top job. A man with the same sense of entitlement as Gordon Brown, and the same qualities of leadership as the captain of the Costa Concordia.