I am totally intrigued by the reaction to Ed Miliband's victory in the Labour leadership contest. He has only been in charge for 48 hours, yet has been subject to constant criticism from the right, and their press, since the first moment.
They are trying to portray him as a tool of the unions, because it was affiliates (not just union) votes that put him over the line. Yet, they have no evidence to back that up, just their own prejudices against unions, which sadly, just proves that their opinions of them haven't changed since the Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported in 1837.
The reality is, no one has any idea how good Ed Miliband will be as leader of the Labour Party. Tomorrow his first of a number of tests will come, which may give us an idea as to his mettle. He makes his first speech as leader, and will want to make an impression, but whether it is good, bad or indifferent, it will only be a taster. I was at his conference speech last year, and it was superb, and tomorrow's may well be a great one. But it won't actually prove anything until he has to do something.
The second test comes in the next week or so, after the shadow cabinet elections. he will then have to be very careful with the hand he is dealt, and that will test his abilities to be both strong, and diplomatic simultaneously. For instance, Ed Balls will finish high in the shadow poll, and his performance during the campaign has earned him a high position. With his background, Shadow Chancellor might seem ideal, yet, during the campaign Mr Balls' line was very Keynesian in opposing cuts. Whether right or wrong, if Ed Miliband wants to carry through his promise not to oppose all the cuts, having a treasury spokesman with that attitude would be playing into coalition hands. Therefore, a non economic post would probably be best.
Andy Burnham will also expect a promotion, though less troublesome from that point of view. Diane Abbott, if elected, would probably be an ideal at International Development. It is an area that would enable her to show she is capable of cabinet rank, and isn't just a protest voice. She would also be against the hitherto excellent Andrew Mitchell, and I think would enable her to have decent debates.
David Miliband, is the big problem, but not in the way that he would seek to sew division, or cause trouble for his brother. David is naturally hurt by the result, he expected to win, and although as he said today, that is something you have to prepare for, losing so narrowly to your own brother is a blow. As runner up, David would feel entitled to a big job, and already having been Foreign Secretary, that really only leaves the exchequer, as shadow Home Secretary would not be big enough. So, it's all down to whether David feels he could work closely with Ed, in the near future.
Ed Miliband's third test will be his first PMQ's, because although this on its own isn't conclusive, it will show his ability to act under pressure. If he does badly, it will put more on him, and if he doesn't improve quickly, the mutterings may begin. If he does brilliantly, it means he will need to be consistently good. Prime Minister's question's is pure theatre, but the only bit of parliament a lot of people will ever watch. So, if he does well in the other debates, but not there, he will be judged harshly.
The fourth, and biggest test in the next few weeks, is the spending review, and how he combats that. If he is perceived as having provided a sensible, and well argued case, for the stance he takes, then it will give him a lot of credit to take forward. If, however, he is seen as having failed to provide reasons why he opposes the coalitions policies, it may not be fatal, but would certainly ensure a long journey back for him. he really will have a short honeymoon period, but he needs to use whatever he gets well.
He will have a shadow on his shoulder throughout, as many people will quickly want to say, 'If only it had been David,' and this will either inspire, or defeat him. No doubt any right wingers reading this will automatically say he will fail. But as I stated at the beginning, we do not know at this stage, and can not. He may grow into a great leader of the party, and really have the coalition worried, or become the interim leader they are saying?