A flawed start for Ed, as David’s mask slips

It maybe an oldie’s prejudice but I just can’t warm to him. Why is that although we’ve overturned old taboos about gays and women, Ed Miliband seems a bit of a shit for upsetting the natural order of things by taking on and besting big brother? Because I think he still seems defined by his opposition to David and the heavier weight of ministerial office he bore. Also by the fact that David was slightly damaged goods for rightly opting against challenging Gordon Brown.

Ed’s challenge to David comes across as more opportunist rather principled. His leader’s speech has done nothing to disturb that impression. Although he was balanced if vague about Labour’s future direction, the FT is right, the speech was mainly a crowd pleaser about Labour’s rejected past.

Inescapably, Ed’s challenge is a more intimate re-run of the fratricidal rivalry between Blair and Brown, even though its outworking may be more suppressed. To avoid a worse case of the Teebee Geebees, David looks like standing down from the shadow cabinet tomorrow- we’ll see.

For the first time David let the mask slip as the camera caught him rebuking Harriet Harman for applauding Ed’s condemnation of the invasion of Iraq, the burden every minister who served under Blair had to bear but from which Ed was enviably exempt,  having become an MP only in 2005. So the soap opera isn’t over. The signs are Ed will have to work doubly hard to lift its shadow.

And there’s something else. The “new generation” mantra entails the rejection of candidates with more than five years’ front bench experience. Nothing new in that, it happened with Kinnock, Major, and Cameron. But inexperience materially contributed to the mistakes the tyros Blair and Brown made after 1997, as Blair himself has admitted. That may matter less to Mililband’s Labour if under him, they fail to win the next election. If he can finally convince voters by exploiting the coalition’s inevitable unpopularity, he will have confounded the critics who have jumped on him very early.  But right now, Labour have saddled themselves with an unnecessary handicap by narrowly electing Ed Miliband.

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  • DC

    Ed Balls and Ed Miliband worked the hustings effectively.

    Ed Balls was ‘bad cop’ i.e. the irresponsible fiscal socialist in terms of slowing up on cutting the deficit – ignoring Darling’s halving it in 4 years pitch – and on attacking the Coalition’s cuts – he was the strident one. He basically stimulated the left leaning members of the Labour party.

    Ed Miliband was ‘good cop’ a good bit to the right of Balls, but to the left of David – making the overtures to the Unions in a more successful way than David did, more softer more appealing to those looking a break from New Labour.

    David Miliband seemed to be a slow burner, I guess not really thinking all this would come to pass and that he would pip his brother to the post with a bit of clear blue water and all.

    Unfortunately DM was too complacent in the end and not strident enough in heading his brother off. It’s a pity because he does come across as a bit more authoritative and more pensive than Ed.

    But in relation to the two Eds – making noises is one thing, but doing is entirely another thing. Already his speech seemed to dilute down and do away with some of his left-leaning credentials that he pitched in the run up to the leadership vote.

    And the long standing centrist option of David Miliband – the ‘Blairite choice’ – well he must be feeling green because wasn’t the ‘I’m an optimist’ line one of Blair’s much-used catchphrases – a cautious optimist?

  • Rocketeer

    I concur with your view of Ed Miliband.
    David Miliband should have had the leadership.

  • Jane

    I agree with you and say this as a lifelong labour party supporter. How dare this jumped up man criticise Tony Blair who has been the most successful labour leader. How dare GB another useless leader get on to John Prescott for his support for David Miliband who was not ditching the good things the previous government had done.

    Let Ed have his newbies and his new regime. I am an oldie and this man has alienated me. He needs people like me to enter Downing Street. He will never get my vote – his brother would have done…..

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont think that “experience” is an issue when we live in an age where “yoof” is celebrated to the extent that it is. Something slightly irritating about a 40 year old Leader of the Opposition and Clegg and Cameron not much older.
    Theres an age gap there that I find a bit worrying.
    While youre absolutely right that David opted not to challenge Brown……the point is that he surely assumed the leadership would fall to him eventually.
    He miscalculated and while Ed had the union vote, Im inclined to think that David….who could in generational terms have ditched the Blair/Bush legacy …lost because of Iraq.
    But its not comforting that Ed and David are MPs for Doncaster and South Shields and like Balls……political insiders who never had a real job in their pampered lives and as unlikely northerners as Hartlepools favourite son Mandelson.
    At least Liverpudlian Burnham knows where his constituency is.
    Rather than have the Daily Mail/Daily Express attack Ed on the “union issue”, I see a less noble assault on his ethnicity…..an issue which seems uncomfortably under the surface on too many blogs Ive seen.
    Ralph née Adolphe Miliband will be mentoned in dispatches.

    Basically “regicide” never works in politics….and while David did not exactly kill off Brown, he was an unwelcome presence.
    Personally I love the sibling thing.
    And I expect David will retire from front line politics (no cabinet job). But surely he will stay in the Commons for the duration of this Parliament….after all four months ago the good folks in South Shields elected him ……but since when did ordinary people actually matter.
    Id guess the brothers will always get on reasonably well…but Id fully expect that the daughters in law (Ed is not actually married) to scratch each others eyes out.

    Next Election. Vince Cable claimed last week that the Condems would fight independently but I cant see that happening with Liberal support in freefall, I see them defending their record as a coalition….

  • lover not a fighter

    If David Miliband was/is so good how come he could not see off his kid brother in the leadership contest.

    Not to mention his pathetic attempt to do Brown down a while back. It was banana skin stuff ! ! !

    What is it about a lot of British (and some Irish) people that want Tory leaders for all the political parties in Britain.

    Cameron; Obviously, Clegg; Tory and becoming more Tory,

    David Miliband could slot into Camerons shoes and who would notice the difference.

    The Murdock and Tory media certainly is a sucessful tiller for the British publics choosing of their Tory leaders and thats not just for the Tory party.

  • I have not yet made my mind up about Ed Milliband. However, I would not blame him for what he did. Opportunities to rise to the top do not come often and they have to be taken. I admire him for succeeding. He could not have achieved that without exceptional ability.

    As I say, I have not made up my mind about whether or not he is a winner.

    One thing is for sure. David’s shadow will always be there, even if he is on the back benches. Whatever David does, his actions will be pored over for some sign of brotherly feud and discord. David might as well have stayed in the shadow cabinet because the media will still get their soap opera.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Looks to me as if David assumed that he had it in the bag, and accordingly didn’t take time to canvass all corners of the party.

  • Turgon

    The definition of Blair as the most successful ever Labour leader is of course fair in terms of elections won. However, if one wants to think about success as changing society how about this:

    Creation of the National Health Service
    Creation of the Welfare State
    Rebuilding the country after the Second World War

    Blair achieved a lot but that man who got out of the empty taxi at No. 10 Downing Street in 1945 achieved rather a lot (maybe rather more).

    You described Ed Milliband as “a bit of a shit” That is not analysis; it is throwing childish insults.

  • ThomasMourne

    Ed Milliband failed in his speech to deal adequately with the 3 major failings of the Blair/Brown government – warmongering, curtailment of civil liberties and the widening gap between rich and poor.
    With such a poor beginning to his leadership of the party I will be checking the bookies’ odds for his early return to obscurity.

  • Alan

    Since when did we accept “the natural order of things” as a good means of deciding political leaders ?

    Ed Miliband has won the leadership because he created a cohesive and progressive coalition across the party. David lost because too many people feared he would be Blair-lite. The result was close, but decisive – such is the electoral process. It is a decision that party members accept, and there is a palpable sense of forward momentum that has not existed for about 5 years.

    The Party has left behind a period of frantic defense of wron-headed decisions such as Iraq, recognised it has work to do in revisioning Labour values in a time of global insecurity, and fixed it’s sights on winning the next election.

    Ed Miliband will be the next Prime Minister.

  • It appears then that the Labour Party is split right down the middle and that David is the more arrogant of the two brothers and is incapable of learning lessons and reading the minds of the people and tendering to their wishes.

    Bye bye …. and good riddance.

    Politics …… it’s just a cheap soap option for media to cover as a sub-prime filler for their own lack of excellent programming, and actors, isn’t it.


  • Alan,

    Cut down on the dope. So much isn’t good for you.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Perhaps one of the most enduring images of the week has been the sight of Ed preceded and followed by political minders as he goes from interview to interview.
    Indeed its now almost a cliché as a cameraman falls backwards. Yet Ed is doing the rounds of interviews with Marr, Boulton, Humphreys…..and Im sure Paxman, Bradby, Snow and the rest.
    Paradoxically his message is about reconnecting with Labour members and voters.
    And of course the inevitable questions about his brother arise. And the inevitable answers. Im not sure how this helps.

    If Ed had perhaps had one or two “pooled” interviews, it would hav drawn the sting much more effectively than too many interviews which feed the story.
    Ultimately Davids “slip” (and indeed Hatties “slip”) spoke volumes more than set piece interviews.

  • Brian Walker

    fitz.. yes the scrums on the news channels look daft but pooled interviews is not how the world works and never will except in extremis. Single excpetion I can think of is a distraught Neil Kinnock quitting the Labour leadership on election night 1992.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    My suggestion of “pooled” interviews was spontaneous and not thought out properly. I should have worded it to show that I think these set pieces should be used more sparingly as they are de-valued.
    There seems to be mornings entirely built round “slots” in the media. For example we all know about the 8.10am “Today” slot but 7.40am with Eamonn Holmes on Sky now seems to be the norm also. In terms of journalism dont rate Holmes in the “premiership”.
    Doing the rounds of the TV and radio studios is I think counter-productive.
    Indeed walking down Ormeau Avenue is always enlivened by a passing ministerial car where a frantic advisor is re-briefing a Minister hoping he will get it right with Noel Humphreys when he didnt get it right with Paul Clark at Havelock House.
    There is clearly a media pecking order……the “Today slot” is a “must do” as is Marr..as is Boulton….as is the Newsnight slot…..then it goes thru the rest of the premiership and into every political editor gets their 15 minutes.
    Is anything really gained by 20 interviews that could not be gleaned from say 8. Is “less actually more”?
    Of course theres always the possibility that even the best advised politician will make a gaffe..thru boredom or fatigue.but that only makes them more wary.
    Conduct 20 interviews and suddenly what someone says on “Boulton” becomes BBC News later in the day.

    The “scrums” do indeed look daft….but having Nick Robinson, Tom Bradby walk in front of them talking to camera ABOUT the media scrum while other BBC and ITN reporters (Kuensburg (sp) Manning) are behind them thrusting microphones into faces ….is almost reporting TWO stories rather than one. Overkill?

    Perhaps Im wrong but the actual REPORTING of the media scrum as a news story in itself dates back to the short walk Blair made to a conference where he was heckled along the way and minders (in I believe red T shirts) were clearing the route rather roughly.
    This is actually newsworthy.
    Not sure if every media scrum since then is as newsworthy. Certainly the sight of “advisors” and campaign teams around politicians is (I believe counter-productive). Unfortunate reminders of their “power” and possibly uncomfortable reminders of the medias responsibility.
    The effect is…I think…..to make politicians …..look more distant, controlled, in a curious bubble of which the media is a part.
    I wonder if all those cameras and reporters surrounding David as he made his exit after his speech….contributed anything. If they had completely ignored the little procession, it would actually have been better for politics as a whole.

  • turgon

    Your 11:19 post is spot on, as you implied, it is not only about winning elections it is also about what you do with it when the electorate will it to you.

    The fact David Miliband assumed the leadership would fall to him eventually, highlights he was not up to the task. After Gordon Browns coronation a majority LP members decided not to risk a repeat of that charade.

    When an individual gains the top job, they either grow into it or it diminishes them very quickly, Mr Kinnock falling into the incoming tide shortly after being appointed LP leader is a good example of the latter.

    So far Ed Miliband has made an impressive start, for the first time in a decade we have an opposition which has clear blue water between it and the government. This can only be good for the nation.

    I do not believe the new LP leader will move the party towards the socialist left, but unlike Blair, I do believe he understands the meaning of common decency and greater equality.

    More on my take on this here.


  • Seymour Major

    Luck could play a significant part in Milliband’s success in 2015.

    A double dip recession will help his cause but certainly will not seal it.

    Bad news in Europe could have a negative knock on effect for the British economy

    At some point, when the Government’s political medicine hits hard, there will be a lot of hardship. The Government can not afford to appear insensitive. They have to manage the appearance of caring.

    Provided they do that and provided they stick to their programme of spending cuts with the economy growing stongly by 2015, it will be an election for the Conservatives to lose.

  • And what goes into the second act of your melodrama?

    The reality is: no election before 2015. For if the ConDems don’t hang together, they prematurely hang separately.

    And that’s an unconscionable length of time for any Opposition leader to fill if it was all said in the first seventy-two hours.

  • In other words, we agree. As Clinton said, “it’s the economy, stupid”.

    That is the only reason why Cameron made it. It’s what, ultimately, sooner or later, will depose the present administration. A poncier way of expressing it involves making the economic and the electoral cycles coincide. Unfortunately that doesn’t work for ever. Who now remembers: “Events, dear boy, events!”?

    Now (see my previous comment), if you know the state of the economy in 2015, you can fairly guess the outcome of the next General Election.

  • Malcolm

    If those of us who oppose the coalition government make life so difficult for the Lib-dems in the country by exposing the human cost of the cuts, we might see the back of Cameron ideological driven regime before 2015.

  • Turgon

    It is worring our level of agreement on this but I think one of your comments there is particularly worth highlighting.

    Whatever the necessity or otherwise of cuts much of the current level of cutting is, I would submit, ideologically driven. The ideology is obvious from many in the Tories but the Lib Dems are also adopting a very traditional Liberal (by which I mean echoes of the 19th century) stance. They are liberal on social issues but also very into liberal (free) markets and a reduction in the size of the state. That much has been clear ever since the Orange Book became the mantra of the Liberal leadership. Whilst the activists may be less and less the beardy sandle wearers of past charactiture the profile of the Lib Dem voter may be considerably less economically right wing than that of the party.

    Hence, Labour may have more chance than people are suggesting next time. If the PR referredum failed, the economy is still poor and Milliband does a reasonable job the Liberals could be massively squeezed and it is worth remembering that despite Cameron the Tories did not do that well at the last election.

  • Turgon,

    Your correct, for me, by using the words ‘echoes of the 19th century’ you have summed up the core of the coalition government perfectly.