A flawed start for Ed, as David’s mask slips

It maybe an oldie’s prejudice but I just can’t warm to him. Why is that although we’ve overturned old taboos about gays and women, Ed Miliband seems a bit of a shit for upsetting the natural order of things by taking on and besting big brother? Because I think he still seems defined by his opposition to David and the heavier weight of ministerial office he bore. Also by the fact that David was slightly damaged goods for rightly opting against challenging Gordon Brown.

Ed’s challenge to David comes across as more opportunist rather principled. His leader’s speech has done nothing to disturb that impression. Although he was balanced if vague about Labour’s future direction, the FT is right, the speech was mainly a crowd pleaser about Labour’s rejected past.

Inescapably, Ed’s challenge is a more intimate re-run of the fratricidal rivalry between Blair and Brown, even though its outworking may be more suppressed. To avoid a worse case of the Teebee Geebees, David looks like standing down from the shadow cabinet tomorrow- we’ll see.

For the first time David let the mask slip as the camera caught him rebuking Harriet Harman for applauding Ed’s condemnation of the invasion of Iraq, the burden every minister who served under Blair had to bear but from which Ed was enviably exempt,  having become an MP only in 2005. So the soap opera isn’t over. The signs are Ed will have to work doubly hard to lift its shadow.

And there’s something else. The “new generation” mantra entails the rejection of candidates with more than five years’ front bench experience. Nothing new in that, it happened with Kinnock, Major, and Cameron. But inexperience materially contributed to the mistakes the tyros Blair and Brown made after 1997, as Blair himself has admitted. That may matter less to Mililband’s Labour if under him, they fail to win the next election. If he can finally convince voters by exploiting the coalition’s inevitable unpopularity, he will have confounded the critics who have jumped on him very early.  But right now, Labour have saddled themselves with an unnecessary handicap by narrowly electing Ed Miliband.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London