Miliband urged to challenge Brown

Environment secretary David Miliband has been told he should stand against Gordon Brown when the Labour party elects its next leader.

Mr Miliband has been repeatedly questioned on whether he will stand in the leadership contest that will follow Tony Blair’s resignation later this year.

Today senior Labour MP, and former minister, Frank Field backed the environment secretary for the leadership.

“Blair’s inexplicable decision to concede power to Brown has resulted in the chancellor’s fingerprints being indelibly smudged on all the main areas of home policy,” Mr Field wrote in an article appearing in today’s Guardian.

“With such clear responsibility for what has gone on, how can he offer the country a new start,” he asked.

He questioned who in the party best “shouts at the electorate” that New Labour has moved on.

“Will that be best achieved by a candidate whose hands have been on the steering wheel for the last decade? Or will it come from the younger generation, in a candidate who is not linked in the public mind with what will soon be seen as stage one of New Labour’s journey? Step forward, David Miliband,” he wrote.

The pressure on the environment secretary to stand has increased in the last week, since the minister made comments last week suggesting the chancellor might not be the most popular choice for prime minister.

“I predict that when I come back on this programme in six months’ or a year’s time people will be saying, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great to have that Blair back, we can’t stand that Gordon Brown’,” he told BBC One’s Question Time.

“Whoever’s in, it’s one of those things – in government people have a whack at you.

“That’s part of the joy of politics, but what I would say is that this is a country that is richer, fairer and more confident than it was ten years ago, and we should be grateful for all of that.”

However, when pressed that he was implying Mr Brown should not, as expected, take over from Mr Blair this summer, he insisted: “No, I’m not suggesting that.

“I think Gordon Brown will be the prime minister, I think he will be a very successful prime minister, but I think that in politics in the end it is at election time that people make their judgment.”

Mr Blair has refused to name Mr Brown as his successor for months, but last week gave the firmest indication that the chancellor would indeed take over at No 10.

MPs on the House of Commons liaison committee questioned the prime minister about his policy review process, asking whether it was – as many commentators suggest – an attempt to bind his successor into New Labour policies for the next ten years.

Mr Blair denied this and made clear the reviews, which cover major issues such as the reform of public services, security and globalisation, were a joint effort.

“The chancellor and I are both involved in all the policy groups and it is an attempt to say what are the challenges for the next ten years, and we are doing it collectively as a government,” he said.

“Out of this will come future policy directions; what will not come is a detailed set of plans in each area or, still less, a manifesto for the government for the future.”