Sunday, March 25, 2007

Have the Brownites moved against Miliband?

There is a very strange story doing the rounds this morning regarding Miliband. First up we have the Mail on Sunday citing "sources close to Miliband" saying "[w]e have received a clear signal that the PM wants David to have a shot at it".

Then we have the Observer citing a senior Blairite "who has been close to the Prime Minister since the Nineties" that has said "[Blair] thinks that if David runs with conviction and mounts the right argument, he'll win. He'll win, because by the end of a leadership contest, the ground will move."

What is strange? Well firstly, the two sources cited that are essentially saying the same thing are being presented as one from each camp, Miliband and Blair, but then David Miliband himself suits the description in both cases. However, why play his hand now? What purpose does it really serve Miliband in terms of winning a leadership challenge if he did run? He could easily muster 44 signatures anyway so it would come down to the hustings.

Given this, I really can't see what Miliband or the Blairites have to gain from this sudden flury of anonymous briefings which seek to portray Blair's mind. However, I can see what the Brownites have to gain from briefing in this way. Tactically it puts Blair into an awkward position where he will find himself having to publicly deny any possible support for Miliband.

As the Observer article points out as well, Brown was apparently fuming last week about what he saw as Blairite orchestrated moves against him. Interestingly the Observer mentions the Lord Turnbull incident as well, which I personally thought had far more to it than meets the eye. What;s for certain is that over the next few months the anonymous briefings are going to continue thick and fast, and they'll need to be viewed with the "Labour leadership campaign" filter switched on.

It's a bit like watching toddlers squabbling without the biting and spitting.

Update: It will be interesting to see the choice of words used by the PMOS when asked about this apparent endorsement.

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