Is Miliband heading to Brussels?

Could he become Europe's first foreign minister?

It's been a good week for David Miliband. On Tuesday he was touted as the man to save the Labour Party and today the Times and the Guardian report that he is in line to become Europe's first foreign minister.

Miliband is said to be admired in Paris and Brussels as one of the few genuine Europhiles in Gordon Brown's cabinet. An EU diplomat remarks: "He is effective and well liked. He has an ability to combine tactics with an understanding of the political big picture and people find that very impressive."

But would he run for the post? As Miliband contemplates the prospect of life in opposition, it would be strange if he were not tempted by the high politics of Brussels.Yet his success would be dependent on the failure of his mentor, Tony Blair, to become EU president. It would be unacceptable for two British figures (and two Labour figures) to claim both of the posts created by the Lisbon Treaty.

There is no doubt that Miliband has the talent and the ambition to take on the job. Since becoming Foreign Secretary, he has overseen the creation of a genuinely alternative approach that favours soft power and diplomacy over military intervention. But it would be a pity for Labour to lose one of its most cerebral and articulate figures from a cabinet that remains, by historical standards, profoundly undistinguished.

I would still be surprised to see Miliband leave the domestic scene. His stock has been rising since his impressive conference speech lambasting the Tories' sinister European alliance. He will not miss his opportunity to claim the leadership next year.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.