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11 April 2010

Ed Miliband steadies the ship

Yvette Cooper note reveals possible tensions in Labour

By James Macintyre

Yvette Cooper must be a little embara ssed today, after a note she wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, during a press conference, has been revealed by a sharply-focused TV camera.

Referring to the media present, she wrote:

It’s clearly second division today – presumably that’s why we’re allowed to do this?

In reply, Byrne wrote:

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Sort of like being allowed to play in the sand pit.

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This is not just embarassing because if there is one thing politicians, especially ambitious ones like Cooper, do not like doing it is alienating the media. But more importantly, it may show a glimpse of tensions inside the Labour campaign. Traditional “Brownites” like Cooper, and her husband Ed Balls, are said to feel marginalised in favour of “Blairites” including Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson.

Party strategists, meanwhile, are hoping that there is a “middle way”, and that it comes in the form of Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander, the “Next Labour” duo who are working on the manifesto and strategy, and who seek to move beyond the old “TB-GB” battles.

Ed Miliband has already been briefed against from inside the Government. But just now, he has given a pre-manifesto talk in Walthamstow, making the case for Labour in a simple and straight-forward way. Tomorrow, he will be at the heart of Labour’s manifesto launch, which will take place outside London. “Let’s go out and fight,” he has just declared.

He — and Labour’s more mature figures — will be hoping that Labour stays focused on the fight, not between themselves but against the Tories.