Posted by Laura
Fair play, Gordon Brown. His succession to Tony Blair was firstly the worst-kept secret in politics, and secondly an uninspiringly dull shoo-in that culminated in a fanfare-less entrance in to Number 10. In short, he was in, Blair was out, but the public had been given so much time to get used to the idea that his appointment had become the most unnewsworthy news story ever. Now he’s finally made it the fun begins. Gordon, as well as succeeding in rebranding himself as a more personable statesman, has managed to enthral the nation with his cabinet shake-up – something his accession to Prime Minister failed to achieve.
Amid the new faces (could anyone have picked Jacqui Smith out of a line-up before yesterday?), questions about the gender balance of the new cabinet, and intrigue surrounding the close family bonds between some ministerial colleagues, arises another issue. Every Prime Minister needs a waiting-in-the-shadows wing man – someone who may one day take over the party reins. Gordon Brown filled this post patiently (or grudgingly, as the case may be) for Tony Blair for 11 years. So who will shuffle comfortably into his shoes and bide their time until the climate is right for a new Labour leader?
One name comes up time and time again: David Miliband. His star began to rise quickly when he was touted as a possible contender to stand against Gordon Brown in the leadership contest, and now he has become the youngest Foreign Secretary in three decades his profile is going to hit new heights.
No one has questioned his credentials as a potential political heavyweight, yet to be a PM-in-waiting these days it takes a bit more than that. There’s a fickle electorate out there – an electorate which, as previous general elections have shown, is swayed by charisma and, ahem, aesthetics.
At the risk of coming across all Cosmo (though I suspect the women’s mag will be clamouring for an interview with him when they realise the extent of his appeal), I’m going to come out and say what I’m sure many others are already thinking… David Miliband is more than just your typical face in a suit; he is House of Commons eye candy. Front-bench House of Commons eye candy at that.
It’s widely thought Tony Blair’s election landslide in 1997 was bolstered by the ‘middle-England housewife effect’; women voting with their hearts as well as their heads. If David Cameron on a bike is enough to get ladies of a certain age swooning these days, imagine what damage David Miliband could do at election time. He’s young (41), intelligent, charismatic, capable and a family man. He may not have the experience of Gordon Brown just yet, but in time he will be able to tick the "electable" boxes that perhaps the dour Scot cannot.
After being ridiculed by my colleagues for daring to suggest someone in a ministerial post could ever be deemed as attractive, I did a little research on the Miliband appeal. It seems I’m not the first one to notice there’s more to the Foreign Secretary than brains and political might. If politicians are going to have to attract the attention of the tech-savvy social networking generation to help engage voters in elections to come, David Miliband already has a head start. There are several Facebook groups dedicated to him – these include the "Does anyone else find David Miliband attractive?" group (yes, I confess, I did sign myself up), the "David Miliband rocks my world" group and the "Gays for Miliband" group, which have increased their numbers by four, five and nine respectively since he became Foreign Secretary yesterday.
Yes, it is an uncomfortable suggestion that elections can be influenced by superficial beliefs, and I am expecting the inevitable fall-out for taking a politician and making him the subject of aesthetic admiration. However, David Miliband could be just what Labour needs if the party is going to fight David Cameron on all fronts in elections to come. When, at some point in the near future, David Miliband makes it on to a glossy magazine’s list of top men, just remember you read it here first.