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David Miliband is out of exile: but what happens next?

8 January 2013

6:07 PM

8 January 2013

6:07 PM

Reports of his return to frontline politics certainly seem to have woken up David Miliband. He has given a very energetic speech in the Commons this afternoon in the Welfare Uprating Bill: so energetic, in fact, that he managed to steal poor Sarah Teather’s rebellious thunder, speaking directly after the former Lib Dem minister. Shortly afterwards, he was spotted at the top of the Portcullis House escalators shaking the hand of admiring Labour MPs who passed by.

As Dan Hodges points out on his blog, the Blairite MP was perfectly happy to attack the Welfare Uprating Bill from the Left, calling it ‘rancid’, and arguing that it undermined the Tories’ confidence in their welfare reforms so far. You can listen to the full speech here:

That he’s happy to toe the party line rather than continuing to write oblique pieces critiquing party policy suggests that Miliband is preparing to leave exile. His interventions in debates continue to be sufficiently rare for his speech itself to be significant, regardless of the content. The narrative has certainly moved on from the feuding Miliband brothers. Ed finally established himself as leader with his autumn conference speech in October, but even before that, the media had stopped looking for signs that David was trying to undermine his brother. He left before Ed’s speech this year, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction. A year previously, that would have been a sensible move, but it looked a little precious this time around because the circus had finally moved on. There is obviously a danger that his return will reignite that.

The problem now is that Miliband is unlikely to want to re-enter frontline politics at even an intermediate level in the Shadow Cabinet. And, in spite of some of the briefing against him, one stumbling response to the Autumn Statement does not an Ed Balls break. Meanwhile, those close to Ed were infuriated with yesterday’s Times story, feeling it to be classic de haut en bas David saying ‘I’m ready to come back, now find me a job’. He’s not actually in the position to dictate his re-entry to the frontline.

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