Friday, May 28, 2010

House Points: Meet Willy-Nilly Miliband

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

Some choice ...

The problem with Labour’s leadership election is that there are too many Milibands and not enough women. It would help if David and Ed had a sister – say Lilly Miliband – but even that would leave them a long way from balance.

Because Andy Burnham is a Miliband too. It’s not just that he looks like one: he also thinks like one. And he has had a very Miliband career: joined the Labour Party in boyhood, Oxbridge, researcher to Labour’s good and great, found a safe seat, became a minister, entered the Cabinet.

It’s just that he does not appear as bright as his fellow Milibands. Who could forget his argument in January 2006 that it would be “foolish in the extreme” to tell MPs how much the identity card scheme would cost? So he’s silly Miliband.

Beyond the Milibands there are John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – the latter from that popular comedy duo Abbott and Portillo. They may have some following in the wider Labour Party, but they will have trouble getting enough nominations from Labour MPs – and they, presumably, are the people who know them best.

Which leaves us with Ed Balls, the walking embodiment of the man in Whitehall knows best, if in doubt order another filling cabinet philosophy of government. He knows where the bodies from the Blair and Brown years are buried. In fact he buried many of them himself.

Electing him as Labour leader would be to echo a favourite story of Rabbi Blue. It’s the one about the Russian officials who were in such despair about the way things had gone since the Berlin Wall came down that they organised a seance and summoned up the spirit of Josef Stalin.

Stalin appeared in a puff of sulphurous smoke and the officials pleased with him to come back and govern Russia again. Eventually the dictator agreed – on one condition: “This time there will be no more Mr Nice Guy.”

Labour’s rules, which allow little time for candidates to get themselves nominated and then ensure an interminable campaign, mean we are in for a long boring summer. And it looks as though Labour will have to choose a Miliband whether they like it or not. So he will be Willy-Nilly Miliband.


dreamingspire said...

Lilly or Lily? Sorry to be pedantic, but my Mum's a Lily.

dreamingspire said...

Actually the net cost of the ID Card scheme as presently configured was due to be low: it uses the passport back office and the £30 fee was predicted to cover much of the cost of the enrolment offices. Even the passport scheme recovers a great deal of its costs from the fee that we pay. (This was all explained by Lord Erroll last year.)

The huge cost (grossly underestimated by our then once and future govt, so I bought into the LSE estimate of around £10bn - but that was just for deployment, not including operation) was in the "we are watching you" operational organisation, requiring a massive call centre, a million bespoke online terminals (not the 10,000 that govt once told us), and an electronic version of the old East German data repository.