Since this morning’s resignations, a few rumours have begun to circulate about the possibility that a senior cabinet minister is set to resign. Whether there’s any truth to these, I have no idea – Tory blogger Iain Dale, who has a fair few Westminster contacts, also mentions it, while Sunny Hundal has a plausible suggestion.
However, this whole affair, from the suggestions of the 31st May departure date for Blair (today dismissed by the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman) to the various resignations, reminded me of this article from a few days back by the New Statesman’s Political Editor Martin Bright (the man who broke the story about the Home Office’s failure to deport an ex-con terrorist suspect back in May).
In his blog post, dated 3rd September, Bright reports on a conversation with an “ultra-Blairite” source who, Bright claims,
“thought it would be madness not to announce the timetable before Manchester… he said that if the PM left it too late ‘the situation will become intolerable and it will be impossible to push through new reforms'”
Bright went on to argue that
“The Prime Minister is becoming an increasingly islolated figure and is now flying virtually solo… Even his closest political allies recognise that Blair himself is becoming a serious problem and even a potential block on the reforms necessary to secure the new Labour legacy.”
Now, hidden amidst the resignation scandal, comes news that
“Mr [David] Miliband, seen as a potential deputy leadership contender, used an interview with The New Statesman magazine to make clear his support for the chancellor.”‘The smooth transition to Gordon Brown, the energising, refreshing transition to Gordon Brown – not to anyone else – is a transition that is about ideas and values more than about dates,’ he says.
“Mr Miliband also confirms reports that he was “seriously worried” about Mr Blair’s refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon last month.”
As I say, idle speculation – and I am a tad drunk to boot – but is it just a coincidence that it was Miliband who has been credited with coming up with the 31st May as the date Blair would announce his resignation?
Long tipped as a future Labour leader, the youthful-looking 41-year-old has seen his star rise rapidly in the dying months of the Blair era, entering the Cabinet just after last year’s General Election and being appointed Secretary of State at DEFRA in May this year. Yet now – just as another leadership crisis kicks off that he may have helped precipitate – he seems to be throwing his weight behind Brown in a magazine long reputed to be Brownite. It’s always good to get in with the new boss before their promotion if you can, after all…
Update: Iain Dale has news of David’s brother, the Brownite Ed Miliband, having cancelled all his meetings yesterday, and asks “Was there a meeting of the Brownite clans?”
Meanwhile, ePolitix has more on that David Miliband interview.
Update 2: On the blog of Sky News’ Adam Boulton (who recently married one of Blair’s former spin doctors, an event attended by the Prime Minister along with Blair loyalists David Blunkett, Tessa Jowell and Peter Hain), there is more on Miliband’s involvement in this little spat – put in a rather more positive light than some other press reports of his recent actions:
“in a move clearly designed to bring some stability to the party, arch-Blairite David Miliband, the man who said on Monday that the Prime Minister would be gone within the year, has given an interview asking for an ‘energising, refreshing transition’ – to Gordon Brown.”
Please also not the similarity in wording to Martin Bright’s piece – Bright used “ultra-Blairite” to describe his anonymous source; this piece describes Miliband as an “arch-Blairite”. Hmmm…