Labour after Miliband

Labour’s leader after Miliband

Labour leaders always have a successor lurking in the shadows, waiting for their fall. So, after David or Ed Miliband, who’s next?

Ed and David Milband After Ed or David Miliband: ‘It may well be that the next leader but one is not even yet an MP’ Photograph: Stephen Hird/ReutersIn less than a month the leadership speculation will be over. Or will it? Recent history suggests that no sooner is a Labour leader in place than questions start to be asked about who’s best placed to succeed him. Yes, him – but more of that later.

It happened to John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The speculation starts first among those who aren’t convinced the right man got the job, but it soon spreads more widely. Miliband D or E (delete as appropriate) may very well suffer the same fate.

Not that any of the possible candidates will want to indulge. Nor should they. Being identified as a potential “next leader” may be flattering, but it can be a heavy burden to bear and one that is more than likely to diminish your chances than advance them. Yet a checklist of the qualities the party might look for post-Miliband is telling. Already there is a sense that the party needs to be ready to move on. Should the next-but-one leader be somebody with little experience outside politics? Should they have come up through the special adviser route, parachuted into a seat for life? Is another white male with a privileged upbringing what the party needs? The answers are probably no, no and no.

All today’s leadership candidates are struggling to put the insane rivalries of the Blair-Brown era behind them, but the next generation will have the advantage of being genuinely untainted – provided those errors are not about to be repeated.

Talented newcomers to parliament such as Lisa Nandy, Chuka Umunna and Rushanara Ali are already attracting attention – although it may well be that the next leader but one is not even yet an MP. Whatever talents they may have, they will also need the experience derived from solid hard work in parliament and preferably in government. Miliband D or E needn’t start looking over his shoulder just yet. The best way to keep this admittedly premature and largely idle speculation at bay is to get Labour back into power next time around.

In the meantime, Winston Churchill’s words on loyalty towards a political leader are always worth repeating:

“If he trips he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes they must be covered. If he sleeps he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good he must be pole-axed.”

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