Even before his refusal to rule himself out of any leadership bid on the way to and during his press conference with the Italian Foreign Minister this afternoon (see above), the UK political blogosphere was unanimous about how to interpret David Miliband’s op-ed in the Guardian this morning.
Here, for instance, is Jim Pickard on the FT’s Westminster blog:
Those outside the Westminster village may be bemused that an op-ed (today’s Guardian) on Labour’s future could be seen as a statement of leadership intent. David Miliband’s language is carefully coded.
No such doubts exist here though. There are the omissions (no mention of Gordon Brown), the timing (he could have kept his head low) and the criticisms (he says Labour could have done more to improve the NHS).
Sam Coates on Red Box at The Times:
The intention of David Miliband’s Guardian article was to cause mischief while Brown is weak. Once decoded, Miliband was sending two clear messages. Firstly, that things need to change. Secondly that he is waiting in the wings … Having ducked out of a leadership contest last year, the biggest danger for Miliband now is that he’s seen to dither – again.
And Nick Robinson at the BBC:
Consider the choices that faced the foreign secretary at a time when there is furious speculation about a challenge to Gordon Brown. Firstly he could have called for that speculation to stop and for people to fall in behind the leader. He did no such thing. Indeed Gordon Brown is not even mentioned in his article. Secondly he could have said nothing at all and simply gone on holiday. But oh no, he chose a third option. To set out the way forward for the party without doing anything to prop up his leader’s position.
I think MPs will be appalled. David Miliband has shown himself to be not only disloyal but also self-serving. People at least thought he was a serious figure and a grown-up politician but by allowing his head to be turned by this leadership nonsense, he has revealed a surprising lack of judgment and maturity.
Nick Robinson, though, reckons that
…the foreign secretary has no intention of trying to bring [Gordon Brown] down. On the other hand he does want to make it clear that in this leadership contest – if there is ever one – he will not hesitate, he is ready for the fight. And he will represent the candidate promising change.