Observers are divided about whether David Miliband really wants the top job—and if he’s got what it takes to land it. In July, he wrote an op-ed piece that was widely seen as critical of Brown’s leadership and many assumed that he would challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership.
But it didn’t happen. Oliver Kamm regrets his college friend’s lack of audacity. “His opportunity to be Labour leader has, for all effective purposes, passed, because he didn’t go for the kill when he might have done and ought to have done, against a leader who will produce electoral catastrophe for the party.”
Michael White, veteran political columnist of The Guardian, also doesn’t think it will happen. “David Miliband is a smart guy and a decent guy, very thoughtful, too, for a politician,” he says. “Can he become Labour leader and even prime minister? Not on the evidence I’ve seen so far. He’s neither ambitious nor ruthless enough, no icicle in the heart.” But other political commentators are not so sure. Ned Temko of The Observer newspaper says, “My impression is he wants the leadership.”
If Labour loses, there’s talk of him becoming Europe’s first foreign minister, and indeed, Miliband would like to see Britain take a greater role in European Union leadership. “He has been successful in demarcating his own political agenda, and even should the Brown government crash and burn, David Miliband will emerge unscathed,” says Jonathan Laurence, a professor of political science at Boston College and a senior fellow at Brookings Institution’s Center on the U.S. and Europe. “He has a bright future.”
Michael Goldfarb is a London-based journalist who contributes to the BBC and GlobalPost and author of Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance.