Why Labour needed the other Miliband

Image credit: pennycsa via Flickr Creative Commons

Image credit: pennycsa via Flickr Creative Commons

Unless you have purposefully dodged all forms of media, then you will know by now that Ed Miliband is the new leader of the Labour party. Ed scrapped to victory by a minuscule 1% margin over his brother David, following heavy support from trade unions.

Despite being a huge personal victory for Ed, the result may prove to be detrimental to the Labour party. I believe David would have proved a more capable and suitable leader.

David has more experience than his younger brother, not only in terms of absolute time in government, but also Foreign Secretary is a far more heavyweight role than Secretary for Energy and Climate Change. Foreign Secretary is much better preparation for a leadership role of such importance due to the responsibility and limelight that comes with the territory. Furthermore, Foreign Secretary comes with inherent benefits of establishing relationships with foreign heads of state. It is hard to recall any major contributions that Ed Miliband has made during his time in Government.

Ed also seems to want to distance himself from the New Labour ideology, this is counter to David who is perceived as Blairite. It should not be forgotten though, that pre-1997, Labour proved weak in opposition and it was the New Labour movement that was the catalyst for their success. Although, some would argue that the New Labour mandate is dead, I would argue that it was a recession with roots outside the UK and immigration concerns that lost Labour the last election. With regards to distancing himself from Blair, Ed has made clear the intention to de-couple Labour from the Iraq war. However, how he will go further than this is unclear; going against New Labour policies that have gained the party so much ground could prove to be a mistake.

The label of being on the ‘left’ has been attached to Ed Miliband, with names such as ‘Red Ed’ and ‘Comrade Miliband’ being thrown around. I have little doubt that these are crude exaggerations of his actual stance, however his position is certainly to the left of his older brother. I would argue that David is the brother who is orientated more towards the centre-ground, and that this is where Labour can get the most advantage going into the next election. With the Conservatives shifting clearly to the right, lead by their rapid shrinking of the state and the Liberal Democrats lacking a lucid identity, Labour can eat up the centre-ground. David, not Ed, was the best person for that job.

The new Labour leader will also have to contend with scrutiny over the way in which he was elected. The Conservatives will have a much easier time contesting the Miliband who was so dependent on the trade unions for his vote. They will no doubt imply that he is at the mercy of the unions and that Labour is harking back to the 1970’s. This image of moving backwards may damage the opposition, regardless of whether it is accurate or not.

However, I may be judging the situation too soon. There is only one way to find out the consequences of this leadership election and that is to wait. Ed Miliband may yet form a strong opposition with a robust cabinet, but, for now, I think he was the wrong choice.

11 comments

  1. This is written like a GCSE politics essay with the writer spewing everything the media has said so far about Ed and little else.

    How about Ed not being another Cameron/Clegg-alike that David Milliband clearly is?

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  2. Good call on the lack of experience in heavyweight positions, but as you say I think time will tell. He’s a relatively unknown entity to the less politically aware, so how he presents himself will be crucial.

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  3. Yeah sure Ed has the backing of the unions, the backing that is of thousands of other people who voted for him. The percentage points separating him and his brother with the MPs and Party Members is a few percent, hardly the gap that the media are trying to portray. The fact is Ed had the most votes in democratic election. The media should give him a chance before they start labelling and being critical.

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  4. 27 Sep ’10 at 6:17 pm

    Mother Nature

    Marcus:

    Surely Gordon Brown is the ultimate anti-Cameron/Clegg-alike, and that didn’t work out that well last May did it?
    Ed has also spend a lot of time in close connection to Brown.
    Whether you like the Clegg/Cameron/Blair ethos or not, that group does have a mass-appeal factor that I think Ed lacks.

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  5. I’m not saying he needs to be an anti-Cameron/Clegg-alike, just that I personally think it’s a good thing that the leaders of the three main parties have slightly different parties e.g. Blair, Ashdown and Major were three completely different personalities.

    Just because he’s spent a lot of time in close connection with Brown, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be like him – just look at Blair and Brown.

    You last paragraph is tosh; that group HAD mass-appeal in the 1990s but not much of the public now likes Blair, Brown, Campbell, Mandleson etc. That’s the whole point of the Labour party not staying in the days of ‘New Labour’ and moving on. Not going back to the Labour of the past but responding to the public’s needs for the Labour party. Not much is known about Ed which means he can be his own man and set out his legacy.

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  6. You cite Ed’s lack of experience as one of the main factors in why David would’ve been better. You then mention the successes of New Labour. If I’m not mistaken, I believe an instrumental actor in that movement had no experience in government whatsoever. If I’m not mistaken once more, I believe he was immensely successful.

    David lacked the human touch that Ed did. Whilst both are clearly policy geeks you sense that David lacks a certain warmth. Certainly, he was popular with some but only with those that ‘got’ him. To Middle England I think he’d appear slightly too aloof and out of touch with their concerns.

    Whereas Ed, who may be a little more to the left, merely suffers from a image problem at the moment. Once this label of ‘Red Ed’ begins to subside he’ll begin to demonstrate what his politics is really about. I suspect that he’s not as left wing as the media would have you think. He probably realised that David had strong support within the party and had his team play up his leftist credentials a bit more during campaigning. It’s the only way he would’ve been elected.

    Anyway, I’m off on a tangent. I don’t agree with this article at all. You don’t seem to delve into the subject matter with any real vigour. Rather, it’s a comment piece with some pseudo analysis thrown in.

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  7. 28 Sep ’10 at 3:18 am

    Aghast Liberal

    For all his supporters’ warbling on about Mil-the-younger’s “human touch” and “ability to connect”, I’ve yet to see a single appearance by the man in which he wasn’t massively outperformed by his brother.

    Where David speaks eloquently to the nation, Ed fumbles about desperately, trying to cover up for his weaknesses by inserting the word “change” at least twice in every sentence. The campaigns were very much a case of gravitas versus overwhelmingly hysterical propaganda. I’ve not met a single person who thinks Ed’s a better performer than his brother who’s not already a member of the Labour Party- whatever his policies may turn out to be, this is very much a case of Labour turning inwards upon itself.

    “Experience” as a political measure counts for nothing outside the minds of party propagandists. Ed’s been involved with the Labour Party for decades, spent years involved in policy, and years in the *cabinet*. To level the inexperience card against him’s little short of absurd.

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  8. I agree with ‘Aghast Liberal’ or ‘Champagne Guardianista’ depending on which interesting pseudonym you prefer. Thank God someone has acknowledged the fact that David is far more charismatic.
    I also agree that I have only found Labour party members supporting Ed over David. The front cover of The Times today would back that up. The Tories are relieved at the result.

    The experience thing appears is being lambasted, but I stand by it, it is quite clear from their speeches at the conference (and generally) that David’s more prominent role has made him better at engaging and captivating large audiences. Anyone who thinks Ed’s speech was better must have been watching something entirely different.
    That could change with a bit of time, but the article was focused at now.

    You might not agree, but it is my opinion that David would be far more effective than Ed at standing opposite Cameron in the Commons. I should think Cameron heaved a big sigh of relief when the announcement was made.

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  9. They both speak like they’ve just descended from the mothership, and are doing their best to learn basic human concepts without realising how much their stupidity, smugness, and inability to understand things like ‘torture is wrong’ are pissing off the locals.

    And call me old fashioned, but neither has had a real job outside of politics. Nothing wrong with being a career politician, but I’d like them to understand something of how wealth is created and, ideally, employed people. But, no. Same old out-of-touch gurning careerist, trying desperately to look vaguely human.

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  10. Like I said people don’t ‘get’ David Miliband. It’s often the case that educated peoples prefer Big D because he is indeed more eloquent and captivating – to a university educated audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he can gain the trust of the whole nation. Whilst I would’ve preferred David, I honestly do think that Ed is a better communicator.

    In terms of being outperformed I think the moment when people began to think of Ed as a potential leader was the conference a yeaer back. Ed played the trick of having no notes and walking around the stage whilst David read dryly from his speech. Ed will get that back soon and will demonstrate how effective he is.

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  11. @Nonsense et al:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11430239

    Just look at that travesty. Licking his lips? Fumbling his words? “Come off it”, delivered with all the gravitas and command of a wilting radish?

    …And yet that got a standing ovation!
    The reality of what they’ve saddled themselves with’s going to hit Labour hard when the conference spirit and honeymoon wear off, I expect. Miliband’s just one bad news story away from a return to second place.

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