You have to keep up in this game. A few months ago David Miliband was the great hope of the Labour Party. Respectful profiles appeared in all the newspapers. He issued carefully worded statements of support for Gordon Brown that fell just short of giving him support.
Then he was photographed holding a banana and it all fell apart. Too young, they said. Lightweight. A silly face.
Now the smart money is on to his brother Ed. He has the better intellect, doesn’t have a silly face (though he does have a silly voice) and, most importantly, he is not given to waving pieces of fruit.
So deep has been the eclipse of David Miliband that it was a surprise on Monday to find he is still foreign secretary. But there he was making a statement on Gaza.
Perhaps his words would have been more impressive coming from another figure. But when Miliband intoned:
“Peace benefits Israelis and Palestinians; war kills both. They are destined to live next door to each other. They can do so either as combatants or as neighbours.”it sounded like platitudes from a boy with a banana.
It was hard to resist the impression that Miliband and the rest of the government are marking time as they wait for President Obama. If he adopts a more balanced foreign policy they will be relieved to go along with it. But for now they are not going to get out of step with America by condemning the Israelis.
As for the Tories, backbench interventions showed that many of them have bought into the Blair/Bush ‘War on Terror’ even more strongly than their Labour counterparts.
The most impressive intervention for the Liberal Democrats came from Ming Campbell:
“The Israeli Government persists in disproportionate military action, using F-15s, F-16s, Apache helicopters and tanks at a terrible cost to human life.”Neither Michael Moore nor Ed Davey has waved a single banana, but they have found Ming’s a hard act to follow as Lib Dem shadow foreign secretary.
It may be that the real tragedy of Ming’s unsuccessful leadership of the party was that we lost an incomparably authoritative voice of foreign affairs when he took up the job.