So why on earth did David Miliband, long considered a future leader of the party, wait until seven o’clock that night to say he was “working closely” with Mr Brown and “supports the re-election campaign for a Labour government he is leading”? What kind of schoolboy error is that to make? And what should the Labour membership make of it?
In Which The Author Discusses Schoolboy Errors
Has he blown it? When there’s a coup, there’s two choices. You give your wholehearted support to the current administration or you give your wholehearted support to the rebels. Simple as that. No ifs, buts or maybes. It’s an either/or situation. And you have to do it fast. This is one of the rare situations when lack of speed kills.
On Wednesday afternoon, some ministers moved very quickly to support Gordon Brown. Jim Murphy was giving interviews inside an hour for instance. Andy Burnham endorsed at 14:07, Mandelson was on tv at 15:07, Ed Balls at 15:27, Ed Miliband was “100% behind the prime minister” at 16:18, and Alistair Darling gave his support at 17:11. That kills the coup and the story dead. All good stuff.
Even if he now makes a strong statement of support for GB, he’ll seem less-than-genuine to put it diplomatically. For someone with an intellect the size of Surrey, it wasn’t the brightest of moves, was it? Now he’s getting a reputation, and it’s not a good one. Bottler, ditherer, disloyal to his leader. None of these are good things to be known as in a wannabe leader. But can he walk it back? Will the membership give him the benefit of the doubt? Time will tell.