Miliband advancing leadership plans

David Miliband is understood to be in the advanced stages of his plans to become Labour leader, with reports today he is in negotiations with Alan Milburn to make him chancellor.

Mr Milburn, former health secretary and a Blairite loyalist despised by Gordon Brown and his allies, is understood to have accepted the overtures.

It’s an unexpected turn of events in the increasingly complex scheming and counter-scheming going on in Westminster. Just last week, Gordon Brown was said to have been holding meetings with Mr Milburn in an effort to bring him back into the Cabinet.

Mr Miliband’s decision to negotiate with Mr Milburn may have been an attempt to secure his loyalty before he made a pact with Mr Brown.

It is also a clear sign of how advanced Mr Miliband’s preparations for leadership have become, and of his increasing confidence in setting about the task.

Party sources close to Mr Miliband are saying he is satisfied with the reception of his article in the Guardian last week, and that he now intends to see how events unfold, secure in the knowledge he is one of the frontrunner in any future leadership contest.

But the choice of Mr Milburn will also trigger fresh speculation about a Blairite plot against the prime minister, given Mr Milburn’s loyalty to Mr Blair and his comments in June that Labour is “yet to develop a coherent post-Blair agenda”.

A leaked memo over the weekend – purportedly by Mr Blair – criticised Mr Brown’s leadership and led to questions about who had released it.

Whether Mr Milburn will be re-introduced to the Cabinet in an expected re-shuffle next month now remains to be seen.