Miliband joining Corbyn’s front-bench team would be a massive display of unity.
Both Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn have a lot in common. Both were attacked by the media and called incompetent leaders after being elected. Both were outsider candidates at their respective Labour leadership elections.
But come their respective general election, Ed Miliband’s Labour lost seats and David Cameron won a majority while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour gained an unprecedented ten percentage points, and its leader has become more likely to end up prime minister than ever before.
There are likely a number of reasons for this outcome. Leadership is an important factor in influencing how members of the public vote. Ed Miliband could not shake off his “goofy” image right until the end while Corbyn managed to cut through as a statesman-like figure with confidence and gravitas not seen in Ed Miliband. On top of that, Miliband’s 2015 manifesto, while it was a break from New Labour, was a very light centre-left document. Corbyn’s manifesto – and his simple and powerful “For the many, not the few” slogan was all about radical change, something which clearly inspired millions to go out and vote Labour. Fourthly, with Brexit guaranteed and the Liberal Democrats making only limited progress, the 2017 election became a presidential battle between May and Corbyn while 2015 was all about the threat of UKIP. Fifthly, whatever you think of David Cameron he was smooth, brilliant politician. Theresa May on the other hand, pushed out a repetitive “Strong and stable” message and hid from the television debates. With a presidential-setting, Corbyn was able to contrast himself against the floundering May whereas Miliband was faced with an experienced leader, David Cameron.
This brings us back to Ed Miliband, who retained his seat at the 2017 election with an increased majority much like most Labour MPs. But could Miliband work under Corbyn?
The Birmingham Mail has reported that at a fringe event at the Labour party conference, the former leader said he could not rule out a return in the “medium term”, however, he did say he enjoyed currently being a backbench MP.
Such a move would not be unprecedented. William Hague and Ian Duncan Smith both went on to serve under David Cameron after their respective spells as Conservative party leader ended in failure.
Since the election, the Labour party has held a generally united front. Tom Watson and Sadiq Khan heaped praise onto Corbyn at the Labour conference. On top of that, Owen Smith, who challenged Jeremy Corbyn for the party’s leadership last year is now the shadow Northern Ireland secretary.
If Ed Miliband were to join Corbyn’s cabinet, the party would go some way to healing wounds opened before June’s election. It looks like Ed Miliband is happy for now, but his return should not be ruled out as a possibility in the coming years.