David Miliband's intervention in the Guardian today shows that there are still one or two members of the Cabinet capable of offering an alternative synthesis of the Government's problems. It is also the first time in a while that I have heard a member of the Government actually attack the Conservative Party.
In his article, Miliband rightly points out that while the Tories may have identified the problems facing the country, they have still not yet come up with any new solutions to them,
"They say they have adopted "progressive ends" — social justice, better public services and fighting climate change — but they insist on traditional Tory means of charity, deregulation and lower spending to deliver them. It doesn't add up."
Most refreshingly, Miliband's article is an antidote to the fatalism of Labour Ministers and MPs. He is right to argue that things are still retrievable for the Party because, according to him, Cameron has no vision for the country and is "stuck on New Labour Mark I at just the time when the times demand a radical new phase."
Voters are not sold on Cameron's New Look Tories. There is still everything to play for. And Labour could, if it wanted to, make a convincing case for change and social justice particularly at a time of economic peril that would leave the Tories flailing about for an answer.
In calling for change and offering a different vision than the Prime Minister's Miliband is positioning himself as a future leader of the Party and Prime Minister. This article is a tacit acknowledgment that he wants to be the heir apparent. (I should admit now that I have always liked David Miliband and would have voted for him had he stood against Brown last year).
While Miliband is right, it is hard to believe that such an important Cabinet figure like him would ever have made such an intervention under Tony Blair. For this reason alone, we must see Miliband's article as an example of the breakdown of Cabinet discipline. In publicly questioning where Labour is heading, Miliband must know that he is effectively offering the Prime Minister a public rebuke.
I still think a change of leader would be incredibly risky for the Party. It is not absolutely certain that a change of leader would help Labour either. What if we got rid of Gordon Brown and still remained low in the polls? This would truly be the doomsday scenario. In this sense, Miliband is right in arguing that it is not "about debating personalities, but winning the argument about our record, our vision for the future and how we achieve it." The Labour Party has got to decide what it stands for.
I think David Miliband has helped that process today, but I can't wait to see what Gordon Brown's reaction will be.