Wednesday, September 29, 2010

David Miliband Finally Exits

David Miliband may well be looking at his last headlines tomorrow, as he shuffles off his political coil and finally exits the front-line political scene he has occupied for so relatively short a time. He has managed to upstage his leadership winning brother for much of this week, but now he's accepted the logic of his position - and implicitly acknowledged the bitterness of his defeat - and made the first steps away from politics. If he lasts as an MP to the next election I'll be surprised. If his reputation lasts any longer I'll be even more surprised.

The meteoric rise and rapid fall of David Miliband have been an instructive tale on the conduct of modern politics. He was one of that increasing group of advisers who were making their name before they even hit parliament. Ushered into a safe seat, David didn't have to waste much time on the backbenches before oozing smoothly into the cabinet, where he was almost instantaneously spoken of as the obvious Blairite successor. His three years as Foreign Secretary represent the high point of his political climb, and although he served competently, and even struck up an odd chemistry with Hillary Clinton, it isn't immediately obvious what lasting achievement he obtained while in that exalted position. To be fair, it isn't immediately obvious what lasting impression he has made at all in politics. Such has been the rapidity of his career it seems to have left little time for anything as solid as a concrete monument. He didn't even manage to decide whether to challenge for the leadership of his party in more trying times, when he might actually have managed to be its saviour - but then, so wet behind the ears was he as a politician that he was still a novice in the hard arts of political activity.

Enoch Powell argued - actually, I think he stated, brooking no argument - that all political careers end in failure. He was thinking of careers that had many years of hard work and graft behind them, making their ultimate failure all the more tragic. The failure of a career that has barely spanned a decade seems so much more ephemeral, and barely registers on the political richter scale. This, perhaps, is the true representation of the new career politics that Philip Cowley was talking about; indeterminate flashes across a darkening sky that seems bereft of the bright lights of more lasting stars. David Miliband departs as if he is some triumphant, weary general who has finally hung up his sword. Actually, he barely unsheathed it, and now disappears not so much into the dustbin of history, as to be consumed by its vacuum.

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