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Coffee House

David Miliband’s Marr interview reminds Labour that they chose the right brother

14 July 2013

11:41 AM

14 July 2013

11:41 AM

Andrew Marr was back on the Marr show this morning, doing a great public service by reminding Britain why we’re not missing David Miliband. The ex-Blair adviser formerly nicknamed ‘Brains’ is off to join International Rescue next week – and even Marr couldn’t resist a Thunderbirds reference. Miliband wasn’t amused. He’d come to give a message: I’m not ruling out a comeback. But after watching his performance, I rather doubt that Labour members will be begging him to attempt one.

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If you were to make a talking doll of David Miliband, it wouldThunderbirds graphic3 come out with the kind of guff he divested himself of today. He seemed to speak in pre-packaged cliche: “a day in government is worth a thousand in opposition”, “in the end, it’s the right place for centre-left parties to be”… “in tune with the modern world” etc. This has always been his vice. Even when he comes up with a phrase of his own, he repeats it until it sounds like a cliche. When asked about his future, he told Marr: “Look: if you over-calculate, you miscalculate” – evidently the lesson he has drawn from the past few years. “Don’t over-calculate,” he advised Marr a second or two later, “because then you miscalculate”.

And then came the sub-David Brent platitudes. “Never lead your life by looking through the rear view mirror,” he advised viewers. And as for losing to his brother? “There are the Murrays of this world who win and there are the Djokovic’s who come second.” So he’s not a loser, he’s a Djokovic. He made big thing of rejecting the “conventional” wisdom about how the next election is bound to produce another coalition. He’s going out on a limb, he said, by saying a majority – either Labour or Tory – is more likely. Except that IS the conventional view: the bookies have the shortest odds on a Labour majority and a Tory majority is second-favourite. Odds on another coalition, of any variety, are very long. So even Miliband’s unconventional views were actually conventional. (We give these election odds every day in the Spectator’s Evening Blend email: sign up for free here).

The content of what Miliband said was fine. But, as he might put it, if you over-prepare for interviews then you mis-communicate. As he did. It reminded me of why the Blair project crashed: it found, in Miliband, an automaton when it needed a champion.

Personally, I find Ed Miliband far easier to listen to. He doesn’t use the soporific verbal formulas which his elder brother seems to be imprisoned by. You may laugh at Ed’s “pre-distribution” theories, but at least they are original. Listening to David Miliband, gibbering on about Iraq and his self-help soundbites, seemed as if we’d been plunged back into 2006.

David Miliband this morning reminded Labour (now 11 points ahead in the polls) that it chose the better brother. MiliMajor’s earliest plausible return would be a 2020 election – by which time promising new MPs like Dan Jarvis, Tristram Hunt, Stella Creasy and Chuka Umunna will have had a chance to rise (or fall). So Miliband ought not worry about “over-calculating” in future. Whatever Labour’s future holds, it will not involve a return of a man whose chance for big time came – and went – when he chickened out of moving against Gordon Brown in May 2008.
PS It was great to see Marr back in the chair, ribbing Miliband about how, as an MP, he hoovered up those second jobs that his younger brother is now subjecting to scrutiny. Marr will be presenting Marr again after the summer. Let’s just hope he goes easy on the rowing machines.

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