David Miliband: Bring it on!

The Sunday Mail is reporting that David Miliband will force a referendum on Scottish Independence if he becomes Prime Minister.

In an echo of Wendy Alexander’s ‘Bring it on!’ policy, the Sunday Mail reports that:

“Miliband’s camp believe she was right to call for an early vote.”

This is in stark contrast to Gordon Brown’s approach of denying that Wendy Alexander said she wanted a referendum, and instead await the Calman Commission’s proposals.

As Gordon Brown’s leadership looks increasingly shaky, it looks like David Miliband is already positioning himself for the role.

The longevity of Gordon Brown’s premiership is – according to which Labour source interviewed – dependent on

1. His conference performance.
2. The Glenrothes by-election.
3. The 2009 European elections

Given that the Labour conference is now upon us, there does seem to be a will among the delegates to try and provide a united front behind the Prime Minister.

There have also been reports that Labour’s own canvassing puts them 5 000 votes behind the SNP in the upcoming Glenrothes by-election. Some pre-emptive commentators are already remarking that Labour shouldn’t ditch Gordon Brown if they lose.

So will the European elections be the final nail in Gordon Brown’s Prime Ministerial coffin?

Will the Labour MPs want to wait that long?

And if David Miliband does become Prime Minister this term will he withstand the pressure – as a 3rd leader between General Elections – not to call a General Election? As I have noted elsewhere, it won’t be the first time that Britain has had three Prime Ministers in one term.

And if he does call a General Election; the way the polls are looking it will be a Conservative victory.

So, on one hand David Miliband wants to hold a Scottish Independence referendum.

On the other, it looks likely he would lose an ensuing General Election.

His willingness for a quick Scottish Independence referendum must then lead to one likely conclusion: that David Miliband has no intention of calling a snap General Election. On taking over from Gordon Brown, David Miliband would wait until the term finished in the summer of 2010 before having a (mandatory) General election.

His strategy must then be to become Prime Minister, hope for a Miliband bounce – that may be likely given how unpopular Gordon Brown has been in recent polling, although Miliband’s own poll ratings suggests otherwise – and pursue a quick Scottish Independence referendum; as the Sunday Mail puts it:

“It would give Labour control of the timing and wording of the vote because the referendum bill would be passed in Westminster.”

The control of the question may be critical to the outcome. (Although since the question has never been asked of the Scottish electorate it remains to be seen; we have only opinion poll evidence for this.)

Miliband must then hope that his carefully worded referendum question pays off in his favour and the Scots back the Union. He must also hope that the margin is conclusive and so derails the SNP.

He could then turn his attention to the Conservatives before the mandatory election of 2010. At which time he may have done enough for Labour to be re-elected.

There are a lot of hopes, ifs, buts and maybes in that strategy. Labour need to decide if David Miliband is really a better option than Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown’s strategy seems to be ‘keep going and eventually we’ll turn our fortunes around’. If Gordon Brown leads Labour to disaster in 2010, would this speculative David Miliband strategy be any better?

2010. Given that it is the SNP’s intention to hold an independence referendum in that year, it means that David Miliband’s ‘bring it on’ position must mean that he would have to be Prime Minister in 2009, otherwise how could he implement such a proposal?

And one last thing. How will David Miliband’s Scottish Independence Referendum sit with the Calman Commission and Liberal Democrat and Conservative partners? They have already endured Labour’s disdain at the hands of Wendy Alexander. The new Scottish Labour MSP leader, Iain Gray, says he is in support of the Calman Commission.

All of this just emphasises how divided and forlorn the Labour Party currently is.

Brown or Miliband? Calman or Referendum?

Labour needs to decide soon.

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