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6 February 2012

Miliband rules out a shadow cabinet return. Or does he?

Former foreign secetary says "you never know" about possible frontbench return.

By George Eaton

David Miliband’s New Statesman essay dominated conversation at Westminster last week and this morning we’ve heard from the man himself. The occasion for Miliband’s media offensive is the launch of a new youth unemployment report but it’s his comments on Ed and the shadow cabinet that have attracted everyone’s attention.

Asked by the Today programme if he would return to the front bench (as Alistair Darling and others have suggested), he replied:

I lost the leadership election, and I thought the fairest thing, the right thing, for Ed and for the Labour Party, was for me to step back from the front line. I didn’t stop thinking, I didn’t stop caring about the issues that matter to me, but I didn’t want a daily soap opera about what did I say, and what did Ed say, and how does that fit together

But it was notable that in a subsequent interview with BBC Breakfast, he left the door open to a possible return. “You never know,” he said.

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As for Ed, Miliband’s endorsement was probably full throated enough to satisfy the Kremlinologists. He told Today:

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We talk to each other, he’s my brother, I want him to win the election and become Prime Minister, because he’s my brother, because he’s the leader of my party, and because I think he can make a big difference to the country. He’s the best man to lead Labour and to lead the country.

And asked if he would stand in a future Labour leadership election, he replied: “There’s not going to be one. Ed has been elected to fight the next election. I think he’s going to fight the next election with real courage and conviction and I think it’s up to all of us to make sure he wins the next election and serves as Prime Minister.”

The report on youth unemployment, published by a commission Miliband chaired for the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, contains the startling fact that at its current rates, youth unemployment will cost the Treasury around £28bn over the next decade. Here’s the relevant section:

The human misery of youth unemployment is also a time-bomb under the nation’s finances. We have done new research on the cash costs of youth unemployment. Even we were surprised. At its current rates, in 2012 youth unemployment will cost the exchequer £4.8 billion (more than the budget for further education for 16- to- 19-year-olds in England) and cost the economy £10.7 billion in lost output. But the costs are not just temporary. The scarring effects of youth unemployment at its current levels will ratchet up further future costs of £2.9 billion per year for the exchequer (equivalent to the entire annual budget for Jobcentre Plus) and £6.3 billion p.a. for the economy in lost output. The net present value of the cost to the Treasury, even looking only a decade ahead, is approximately £28 billion.

The high quality of Miliband’s interventions (I recently noted his evisceration of George Osborne’s economic strategy) is evidence of why many in Labour believe the party would now benefit from his return to the shadow cabinet.