Brotherly Love

 Following an extremely close-run election campaign and ballot, Ed Miliband pipped his media favorite elder brother David in the Labour leadership race by a 1.3 per cent margin. Sons of Jewish immigrants, the political pair were both educated at a North London comprehensive before winning places at Oxford University where they gained first class degrees in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. In 2007 they became the first brothers to serve simultaneously in the Cabinet since Edward and Oliver Stanley in 1938. The Labour leadership election of September 2010 was largely expected to be won by David Miliband (born 1965) but his younger brother Ed, had different ideas!

Under the Electoral College system employed by the party, voting power is divided equally between three sections: MPs and MEPs, affiliated organizations including trade unions and ordinary party members. Because Ed Miliband owed his selection as leader to the support of the trade unions and the left of the party, many observers quickly jumped at the chance to label Edward, “Red Ed”; also obviously they were assisted in this because his father was Ralph Miliband, the Marxist theorist.  

Red Ed has made an amazing advancement; from writing speeches for the then future Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the 1990’s and advising him whilst at the Treasury, he has made a spectacular rise to prominence. Mr. Miliband was Gordon Brown’s adviser/counselor from 1994 to 2002, at which point he left the Treasury to secure a safe parliamentary seat in 2005. Mr. Brown then appointed him to his Cabinet. He therefore does not represent a break with Labour’s past: he helped shape Labour’s past.

With such a close contest, one could perhaps anticipate some animosity amongst members and the Miliband clan. It could be difficult to unite the Labour party behind the young Miliband when virtually half of those in the party arguably would have preferred his brother. This remains to be seen. Mr. Miliband joked about his “Red Ed” nickname, yet the abiding impression left by the new leader was that, under Labour, the big state will be back

The new leader – who was elected as an MP two years AFTER the Iraq war – told the conference the conflict was “wrong because that war was not a last resort, because we did not build sufficient alliances and because we undermined the United Nations”. David’s extraordinary outburst over his brother’s statement confirmed that he would NOT be standing for Ed’s Shadow Cabinet – and will walk away from frontline politics.

Like the outpouring of grief following the death of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, the decision by David Miliband to leave politics has a great deal to tell us about the nation that we have become. Many commentators have spoken of the event as a “tragedy”. Almost all have praised the “courage” of the former foreign secretary. The refrain has been: “David must do what’s right for him.”

Very few have urged that David Miliband should have put his own preferences aside – and done, instead, what was right for the Labour Party and for the nation. Nobody told him to put wounded pride behind him. Nobody talked about stoicism. His wife burst into tears when the result was announced: she’d have done him a favor if she had given him a sharp slap and told him to pull himself together.

For the party faithful, the fact that the new leader’s speech was fundamentally dishonest will be of little consequence; to the country, it should be. Red Ed set out to create the myth that he leads a new political “generation” – he used the phrase at least 40 times – that represents a complete break with Labour’s past. This simply will not wash. The new leader appears to have learned from his mentor, Mr. Brown, not to place too great a store on clarity or principle.

In concluding his acceptance speech Red Ed called for a New Politics – a cliché that has been uttered by every freshly minted progressive leader since John F Kennedy. It is doubtful whether he had the faintest idea what he was talking about. So how about a return to an old politics which respects experience and fortitude, duty and service? Meanwhile we urgently need to turn our back on the empty, shallow, meretricious narcissism on display at the Labour Party Conference the other week. Labour may yet rue the day they picked the younger Miliband to lead them.




2 Responses to “Brotherly Love”

  1. You are posting recent blog entries on twitter as well? If so I would like to know your account, so I can follow you there and be informed.

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