Contrary to many comments, Labour members have a choice at the coming leadership election; between a long term commitment to reassuring their members and erstwhile supporters or winning new adherents to an appealing alternative programme to Coalition budget cuts and an immediate challenge to its authority.
There is a case for either. What do we think will happen? Can the Coalition be swept aside by public repuganance to its programme. If Boy George is stupid enought to press on with 25-40% public expenditure cuts when the economic recovery is stuttering to a halt, public repugnance may sweep the Coalition aside and the Labour Party might achieve a majority in its own right in an early election. If you believe that there is no space for genuflecting to a pre-New Labour past, teeth-gnashing and confession. If you believe the first, you should vote for David Milliband. As the person with the most serious, senior experience of Government, he is your man for a snap General Election. It is said that David Cameron’s nightmares are focussed on the possibility of a quick and bloodless Labour transition to David Milliband.
Labour voters have an alternative candidate in Ed Balls. If you believe that the issue of the economy will be the one and over-riding issue of this notional snap election then Ed Balls is your man. At his best Ed Balls has Churchillian qualities: he is pugnacious, and combative and (with a little help on delivery) the best equipped candidate to be convincing on the economy. But for the disasters of war, Churchill would not have found his way to power in 1940. Do we not have economic disasters of commensurate gravity now?
If you believe that the Coalition will last a full term, which remains the view of academic pundits and right-wing journalists, Labour does not need David Milliband or Ed Balls. Anyone will do. Why not the engaging and popular Ed Milliband. If the latter it is likely that good sense will disappear in a welter of apologies for the past and the party will cease to be relevant. Labour will risk being out of power for a very long time.
I favour an endeavour to sweep the Coalition from power as soon as possible before too much damage has been done to British society. There is a military analogy. Can we summon up the blood and sinews (do we have the will and have we got enough money); can we few, when confronted by the many triumph, (although weak, do we have a winning strategy and do our enemies have exploitable waeknesses), if we are prepared can we catch them unprepared (do not underestimate your enemy he has probably anticipated your coming).
The Coalition cannot be assured of the whole hearted support of its troops: there are weaknesses on the left flank, some of who have deserted the field and others who are switching sides. After a period of negotiation a cavalry charge is required here.
So in the final issue the choice is clear. For Victory in an early battle choose one of two Generals David Milliband or Ed Balls; for a long and inconclusive guerilla campaign, select Captain Ed Milliband.