Friday 9 October 2015

King Over The Water

Let's imagine for a moment that Jeremy Corbyn fails to sweep all before him.

(Some Corbynistas may take the very suggestion as an insult, but that's too bad.)

Suppose it's a few months before the 2020 election. Maybe Corbyn is still leader, or maybe he has been deposed. Either way, opinion polls predict heavy losses for Labour and a landslide Conservative victory. The writing is on the wall: Labour will lose badly, and there will be a vacancy for the position of leader.

No, not this king over the water.
At this point, I would expect the centrist elements of Labour to start pushing for former Foreign Secretary David Miliband to return to UK politics. He sat out the defeat of his brother Ed, and hypothetical calamities under Corbyn, doing good works as head of the International Rescue Committee in New York. He would have the unique combination of senior government experience, and almost complete disconnection from Labour's decade in opposition between 2010 and 2020.

David Miliband will be 55 years old, and could try to find a safe seat for the 2020 election -- although Scotland has demonstrated the concept of a "safe seat" is not what it used to be. On the other hand, to wrap up the family soap opera, brother Ed's seat in Doncaster might become vacant.

The main difficulty for the hypothetical Draft David movement is this: Miliband may not want to run for leader again, or take on the task of trying to salvage something from the post-Corbyn wreckage.

I'm raising this possibility not out of any particular liking for Miliband, but because the parliamentary Labour party is likely to be pretty desperate. There aren't many other plausible leaders.

Cooper, Burnham and Kendall have just had their chance and been soundly beaten by Corbyn. Chuka Umunna withdrew from the race this time for personal reasons, and may not wish to try again. There are some talented new MPs such as Keir Starmer and Dan Jarvis, but they might be considered too inexperienced. Who else is out there, really? Could Ed Balls end up being the standard-bearer for the centrist tendency of Labour?

This raises another line of speculation. Balls lost his seat in the general election. He could try and fight a by-election to return to Parliament as soon as possible, but it wouldn't surprise me if he was in no hurry to serve as an MP under Corbyn. He might find himself another job for the next five years and aim to return as an MP in 2020.

Maybe Corbyn will be a stunning success and render all of this moot. If not, you read it here first: We might have a Prime Minister Miliband after all, just a decade later than we first thought.

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