David, “Ed” and a media narrative

2nd February, 2012 9:48 am

David Miliband has written an article for the New Statesman. You’re probably aware of it by now – either because you’ve read it, or because you’ve seen the Daily Telegraph’s shrieking front page (more on the Telegraph later).

If you haven’t read the article in full yet, I’d recommend taking the time to do so. Like so much that comes from David Miliband, it’s a thoughtful and weighty contribution. There is much in it to agree (and disagree) with. His analysis of Labour’s need to move beyond the state chimes with aspects of Blue Labour thought – and the debate around Labour’s purpose when there’s “no money left”. But it also reflects a very mainstream debate in the party, and one that has raged on LabourList often in the last 18 months – whether some in the party and the movement are too comfortable with opposition. Emma Burnell’s rip-roaring post two weeks ago was just the most recent example.

Yet to read the media coverage around the intervention of the elder Miliband, you’d think this was a two dimensional, direct attacks on his brother and the party. The Telegraph, showing extraordinary clairvoyance, and mind reading prowess, describes David’s essay as “an attack on his brother Ed’s Labour Party” and “a thinly coded assault on the leadership of his brother”. That’s despite four (by my count) explicit positive reference’s to his brother’s leadership of the party. There’s reading between the lines, then there’s working around the lines that don’t fit the story…

Unfortunately clairvoyance isn’t everything. Central to the Telegraph’s thesis is that David has referred to his brother not as “Ed” but as “Ed Miliband”. You can see their point. That sounds cold. What a distance there must be between these two brothers. Except that’s not the case. The original version of David’s article referred to “Ed” not “Ed Miliband” – it was changed, as per the Statesman style guide, to differentiate Ed Miliband from Ed Balls.

If only someone had taken the time to check (like we did, it didn’t take long)…

Similarly confused is the attempt to spin David’s article as an attack on the leadership, when the criticisms are aimed at what he calls “Reassurance Labour” and Roy Hattersley (or perhaps Neil Kinnock), who hasn’t formed part of the Labour leadership for decades. I know we talk about how this country are taking the party back to the 1980s, but I didn’t think we were being literal. And even the most ardent supporter of Ed Miliband would struggle to argue that Ed Miliband has been “reassuring” Labour supporters recently.

What is pleasing, and should not be overlooked, is that David Miliband is starting to feel comfortable enough to make a cautious return to domestic political debate. Thats something that I’m genuinely delighted about. David wasn’t my first choice for leader, but months ago I was calling for him to return to frontline politics. Most activists I speak to – regardless of their personal politics – want Labour to have a team of all the talents. That includes David Miliband.

Fortunately this won’t be David’s only intervention in the domestic debate this month. Next week David will be launching a major report from ACEVO on youth unemployment which will give the press an opportunity to look at the substance of what he’s saying. We’re also hoping that he’ll contribute to the debate on LabourList too.

I hope that in these and future interventions, the substance of his argument, rather than the intervention itself, is what gets the column inches. I long for the day when David Miliband commenting on the future of a party he has served his whole adult life is no longer treated as a exercise in political tittle tattle.

And I have a feeling David (and Ed) might feel the same way…

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  • Anonymous

    Whether or not Ditsy Dave wants to attack his brother, one good thing might come of this brouhaha: By even suggesting that Labour in 2012 is “Left wing”, Banana Man shows himself to be totally out of touch. Just like most of the Blairites, he is a whinging old woman who just cannot bring themselves to believe Blairism is yesterday’s brand and no longer lof relevance to the country, let alone the Labour party.

    I suppose as DM accepted a £50,000 a year job for a few hours work each month from an investment company, he feels he has to show himself to be pro-business (as if he hadn’t often enough already), but hopefully this latest little spat will ensure he is no longer considered a leadership candidate.

    “Left wing”? What planet is the man on?

    • Anonymous

      We have had three Tory parties with one having a pink tinge to it, Blair would have been a Brilliant Tory and may well have  won many more terms except of course the pull of making million with a great address book.

      David has now stated the Public sector is to big and we need to accept it, question if Labour comes back in how will it lower unemployment  seeing how they did it last time by using the Public sector.

      Labour is now again trying to get rid of the Tories by becoming them and it’s not going to work, why vote for the the under dog when the God is in power.

      Labour has to to show they are not as bad as they seem with finance good for you, how are you going to do that when you removed the regulation from the banks and said go for it.

      No more Boom and bust remember.

      The Tories had so much infighting when labour was in power, it took two terms before they realized the battle was not within but with labour, they looked around and found Cameron a Blair look and sound alike, same as the Liberals, now Labour has the same problem in fighting to see which faction should be in power, by the time the two Miliband’s and the Labour party decide which faction, two or three or four terms may well have past.

      • Anonymous

        I honestly believe Labour will not return to power until they shed the ghost of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. That can’t happen while Ed Balls remains Shadow Chancellor and the likes of Byrne and  Flint are there ready to spout their Blairite views.

        David Miliband popping up and Alistair Darling, suggesting that Labour is nasty to the City, and wanting to recruit Tories is totally counterprodutive in that they do not speak to the average Labour voter, and the real Tories have no reason to need a clone party.

        • Anonymous

          Look who was standing next to David at the press conference it was Mr Murphy.

  • Anonymous

    So what does labour stand for.

    Education follow the Tories, but we would be better.

    NHS follow the Tories allow in the private sector, but we will wait to see public reaction.

    Welfare follow the Tories.

    The state,
     make it smaller follow the Tories, you now say the Public sector is to big, question who made it so big, who used it as an employment center for lowering unemployment.

    Blair did good things, yes he did he left, but he left before his wars ended, to of course make his money with Bush blessing.

     Blair in his book say he had to leave  otherwise he would have been forced out, what a bloody load of rubbish, all he had to do was sack Brown and Brown would have been  gone.

    Question who is labour what does it stand for who is it’s core voter and who does it wish to be seen as being it main voters answer as many Tories as it can get swing voters and the supposed squeezed middle class, question what is the main difference between labour and the Tories answer god  knows.

    David is a basic Tory who came to new labour because it was easier to get a position, he is like so many these days a career politician who would become leader because he is young enough, then later on move on into the private sector or in fact the house of Lords use his address book to make millions and retire to the house of Lords, this seem the way of it these days

    The Mantra new labour is not dead, if you move to far away from the ethos I will remove you.

    • Anonymous

      It is interesting the number of what might be termed Conservative Labour MPs eminate from the North West and places like South Shields where DM is M.P. where they would only ever vote in bulk for the red rosette, even if the man wearing it could just as easily in practice be wearing a blue one: one thinks of John Hutton for example. I know he’s not there now, but there are so many examples of this Conservative Labour shower – the Liam Byrnes the Carloine Flingts et al

      What David Miliband and his ilk forget is that while they are demoralising Labour supporters on the left, they will not succeed in their dream of permanently hooking Conservative voters, because those people already have a Conservative party – and one that (with a little assistance from the Lib-Dems) is in power.

      I honestly wish people like DM would take the money and run (in his case to his new investment company employer), it would b e a price worth paying for South Shields to have a real Labour MP and for the rest of us not to have to listen to or read his long-winded pseudo-intellectual claptrap.

      • I read the article and couldn’t find anything in it that would frighten the horses.

        I thought D.M was right to take Hattersley to task over a “a central state that sees itself as the only source of public virtue “. 

        Just think of the way the nationalised industries were run, the Coal Board under Robens etc: as a mirror image of their private counterparts. Or the way inequality increased under New Labour even though education and the NHS received a massive boost in funding. Not to mention the out-of-touch Blair wandering off into fantasy land. The policies that derive from a centralised elite aren’t going to work anymore.

        There’s been a lot of noise lately, mainly from the Progress brigade, about mutualisation and cooperatives, and the opportunity offered by them for founding a new type of economy. If these proposals win wide support they’ll form the most radical policies Labour has ever devised. This could where restless re-thinking could take us.

        My guess is that battle lines within the Party, if they arise, will be between those in favour of common ownership (not centralised nationalisation) and the faltering forms of unaccountable ownership that exists today.

      • I read the article and couldn’t find anything in it that would frighten the horses.

        I thought D.M was right to take Hattersley to task over a “a central state that sees itself as the only source of public virtue “. 

        Just think of the way the nationalised industries were run, the Coal Board under Robens etc: as a mirror image of their private counterparts. Or the way inequality increased under New Labour even though education and the NHS received a massive boost in funding. Not to mention the out-of-touch Blair wandering off into fantasy land. The policies that derive from a centralised elite aren’t going to work anymore.

        There’s been a lot of noise lately, mainly from the Progress brigade, about mutualisation and cooperatives, and the opportunity offered by them for founding a new type of economy. If these proposals win wide support they’ll form the most radical policies Labour has ever devised. This could where restless re-thinking could take us.

        My guess is that battle lines within the Party, if they arise, will be between those in favour of common ownership (not centralised nationalisation) and the faltering forms of unaccountable ownership that exists today.

        • Anonymous

          Well if you look at nationalization it did save the Banks so it cannot all be bad. If Labour had put as much money into British rail as it has into say Virgin to run trains I think we would have had a great railways service, then again Labour took over the banks saying  we will get all our money back, well they did not with Northern Rock did we. And I doubt we will get it all back with the rest of the Banks.

          But the real problem for labour is of course when you sit down and wonder which party is likely to look after you, then sadly you would not vote, which I suspect will be what I do.

          Civil servants pay no tax great news, labour now says  we cannot renegotiate those contracts, so who did the negotiations, I have a feeling  it will be Tory then again it could be labour, seems paying tax  has become a problem for the rich if it’s not  soccer it civil servants.

          • Dave Postles

            Well, we’re unlikely to recover the cash injection from RBS when it sells its investment arm (Hoare Govett) to Jeffries for a nominal sum of £1.  If I remember correctly, Hoare Govett was acquired by RBS in the Amro deal.  I suppose that UKFI signed this one off.  Perhaps the strategy/gambit is that the disposition will raise the share price and the UK taxpayer will recover the money that way … really?

  • redcube

    ther’e room for david but theres’ to many to choose from as to who he could replace


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  • Bill Oconnor

    I used to be very anti-‘Blairite’ whatever ‘Blairite’ means until I heard perhaps the most ‘Blairite’ politician of all- James Purnell talk at conference. I then realised that this section of the party is usually very thoughtfu,l pragmatic and with an eye constantly fixed upon winning in order that a progressive programme can be implemented in government. In addition I have found that they are fiercely anti-Tory.

     In the light of recent events such as a Welfare Reform Bill that is going to make disabled children suffer, the kind of approaches they offer imho should be embraced by the whole party. After all is said and done what is the point in having a radical socialist programme if there is no chance whatsoever of being able to implement it?    

  • Anonymous

    I may be wrong, but in the context of all the “interventions” via the media, and more recently from Peter M- especially over the Xmas period- this just looks specifically timed and rather staged.
    It does not look like an endorsement or support of his brother Mark.

    It appears timed immediately after Ed’s success on the debate over “responsible capitalism”
    and PMQ’s. It can’t be mere co incincidence; especially as apparently so similar to what Peter M was saying.

    This constant onslaught by the right wing of the party is getting tiresome and counterproductive in my view- and all looks pre planned and designed for maximum effect.

    Of course David has every right to speak his mind; but surely if his intention was only about
    improving the prospects of the party or working as a team he wouldn’t go about it in this way on the sidelines?

    Also- it was he apparently who referenced Roy H and N Kinnock, not the T’graph?
    He is the one saying the party is going further to the left!

    But where is the evidence for this- and surely can’t be just based
    on Ed’s response to the bonuses or knighthood issue- which is far
    more in the public interest that any intention of political positioning?

    What I see is Ed M treading a careful and cautious line somewhere in the middle-
    not “pandering” to any factions in the party.But I think it’s a barrier to
    just giving him space and freedom to develop things in the way he wants to,
    and working as a team; taking a more pluralist and alternative  approach.

    I agree in the longer term it would be useful for David M to return
    to the frontbenches- it might heal some of the “rifts” which some of the Blairites
    seem to harbour, and bring people and ideas together.
    But Ed M has always seemed pretty open to that anyway?

    As far as the dynamics of the party goes, it all looks from the outside as one sided,
    and I think Ed M constantly undermined and patronised.
    Sometimes it even looks like plotting behind the scenes- and
    some sort of relationship going on between the right wing of the party
    and parts of the media?

    I simply cannot understand why an open and honest discussion
    can’t be had, involving ALL within the party, at all levels, and on all
    “sides” rather than what appears rather underhand tactics and sideways swipes-
    using the media as a platform for maximum attention.

    I actually have a lot of respect for David M as an experienced politician,
    but I sense his ambitions may include some sort of New Lab rennaissance
    as the only way forward for the party- along with others connected to that era?
    Much as he has some great ideas and dynamism- I think that assumption
    is basically flawed and out of touch; times have already moved on;
    and what the public/electorate associated with NL was voted out for clear reasons.
    I think Labour now has to rechart its course and connect to its original purpose,
    otherwise risks losing identity and trust.

    In the context of “austerity” measures and emphasis on “cuts” rather than growth,
    Labour has a real opportunity to reframe the debate; also to represent
    the voices of ordinary people, communities affected- and social justice.
    It’s not “anti business” it’s about involving people, eg in encouraging small enterprise,
    innovation, improving access to education and training for young people;
    emphasizing quality in frontline services; bridging the pay gaps in either private or public spheres….

    I think what we need are passionate and outspoken people within the party to champion
    these issues- not just an inner circle of frontline politicians manouvering with each other
    and the media: it misses the whole point of purpose of public service and being relevant and in touch with people’s lives.

    Maybe I’m wrong- but this is how it appears as an immediate observation;
    I just think some of these guys are finding it hard to let go,
    wipe the slate clean and just get on with the job in a very practical way;
    Ego’s are not helpful.

    If I’m way off the mark, then please let’s discuss; many people
    are capable of observation and ideas; this period of “Refounding”
    the party is supposed to open to all?

    Thanks, Jo.

    • Anonymous


      No more boom and bust.

      Saddam can hit us with missiles in 45 minutes, yes lets send that dossier back once, twice, three times, Mr Campbell new book was interesting but it was to much about him and his power base I could not get through it all.

      Balls to day comes out for his mate David and as we said before and I will say again, Ed is dead.

      Ed’s rating are shocking Balls is shocking as well, so I think Mr Balls is ready to switch camp, but I’ve a feeling if David came back took the leadership then Darling would be back.

      Do I care nope  not a bloody jot  none of the Parties will do much for me, one of them may well end up shoving me into a holiday camp with a large chimney  at the bottom with a sign saying work pays.


    • Anonymous

      I agree with much of what you say, Jo, but under no circumstances would I ever reward David Miliband with a shadow cabinet post. Even if you could get him to stop sulking, he would constantly be trying to undermine EM and anyone else in the shadow cabinet who wasn’t a rabid right-winger. Apart from anything else, his job as MP for South Shields and his part-time city job(s) should occupy his time.

      I don’t think he is even that clever – he just dresses up cliche and platitudes in a verbose pseudo-intellectual manner.

      What he really means can be boiled down in essence to this: “The party chose the wrong Miliband – I am the “clever” one, and I want to be Tony Blair when I grow up”

      • Anonymous

        Hi Alan, I suppose we can only form impressions from the limited
        visibility we are given via media stories; we’re probably fed a narrative of their own choosing anyway.

        I personally do try to steer away from just looking at personalities
        or making assumptions- although didn’t succeed here!

        But just from basic observation I am deeply unimpressed
        and mistrustful of what appears to have been an onslaught
        of “attacks” towards Ed M from influential people in the so called
        “Blairite” camp- that includes ex ministers and allies in the media.

        I think there has to be room for healthy debate and constructive criticism from all sides- a lot can be acheived that way; but there are ways and means to do that which bring all on board- not just using one’s position or influence, such as Peter M appears to do intermittently.

        None of these guys seem to have a clue about ordinary people’s lives,
        or show any signs of wanting to engage, unless its something that will bolster their image or prestige.

        Perhaps it’s all part of what has been male dominated for so long;
        I think needs to come down several pegs and adopt some humility
        and open mindedness.It’s the arrogance I object to; pride in one’s work
        is a good thing- but not strutting about on the stage- whoever does it.

        Otherwise, I think more people would be willing to listen
        to genuine points made.


        • Anonymous

          None of these guys seem to have a clue about ordinary people’s lives,

          or show any signs of wanting to engage, unless its something that will bolster their image or prestige.”
          Totally agree, Jo, and this is one of the big problems for Labour. Nothing illustrates this better than the case of one of my bete-noirs Liam Byrne yesterday. Apparently he has just discovered that people who have the misfortune to have cancer will suffer as a result in the benefit changes.

          Now Byrne would have us believe that this is because of those nasty people in the coalition, but we know that people suffering from terminal cancer, God help them, were being turned away for DWP payments in the final days of Brown’s government thanks to the witless James Purnell accepting all of David Freud’s reforms without question.

          So Byrne is morally dishonest as well as a grinning fool. Brown’s administration, shamefully, made the coalitions work that much easier for them.

          Things are not great for Labour under Ed Miliband, but hopefully he will grow in confidence and become his own man, but this won’t happen if his petulant big brother keeps beavering away. Like you, I do not think it coincidental that he and Mandy have crawled out of the woodwork in the same week, just as it appears EM is winning some credibility.

          I honestly believe that there are people the party would be well rid of, and DM with his expense claims, bananas and city jobs is one of them. He comes over as a pompous prig, not content to use one word when a dozen will do. I doubt he has much, if anything, in common, with the ordinary labour voter

      • Anonymous

        In Nutshell spot on, sadly we still have people who see Blair as a saviour, not a bloody criminal

  • Anonymous

    Well all I can say you have a strange view of Purnell

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    That’s interesting Bill.

    For myself, when I refer to “Blairites” I suppose I mean
    those who appear to be pushing a position for the party
    very forcefully, much more on the right; also many who
    were in positions of power.

    My impression is one of a specific mindset and attitude;
    that there is only one way possible and only one way that worked.

    Also they assume they are progessive and intellectual,
    as opposed to the rest of us poor naive individuals;
    broader ideas are not accepted; it’s almost zealous,
    like a religion.

    I just think they are too stuck in that way of thinking
    to be able to see a bigger picture and more possibilities-
    which as yet may be unformed and needs time and
    many more people with experience and ideas.
    Yes, time of the essence, and party probably
    under great pressure- but the mistake would be
    to rush to the wrong conclusions and perhaps
    think success equates to a formula which has
    already run its course?

    But I do think it possible some sort of hybrid
    of ideas and people from all sections of the party
    could be amalgamated; many of these people too
    are extremely talented and would have much to offer.

    I just dislike the power play and what sometimes
    appears destructive nature of briefings
    and manouverings; and for some time
    this has been so one sided.
    I just want everyone to get on with job
    and stop playing games, and more importantly-
    work with the public/members, not in spite of.

    This is a general overview; but also
    perhaps needs to be born in mind the public
    are feeling quite cynical and less trustful
    of the political class and power of media
    to set agendas and talk amongst themselves,
    when there is so much out there needing to be addressed.
    In that respect, I think Ed M “gets it” far more
    than many others- so there is more potential.


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  • Anonymous

    Bill I don’t mean to be rude, but Purnell is anti-Tory?. Well he even got David Freud for the Conservative party.

    People like Purnell are interested in power – personal power. When his resignation on the nkight of the EU elections didn’t get him what he wanted, he flounced out resigned at the next election and now “works” for DEMOS.
    Purnell was implicated in the expenses scandal with his imaginary “cleaning bills”, and his maximum claims for “food allowance” at gthe very time he was saying that benefit claimants “played the system”.

    Perhaps you were taken in by his beautiful blue eyes, but to me, and I suspect others, he is just a reminder of the sleazy discredited past of some over-priveleged , self serving hypocrites that infested the right wing of the Labour party.

  • Anonymous

    what Children are good disabled people are bad, Labour started the welfare reforms with words like scrounger work shy not being part of society. Freud Purnell and Blunkett, but it was Purnell that stands out as for children suffering that’s down to Purnell again

  • Bill Oconnor

    I think the record shows that Purnell is not in politics for reasons of personal power, having resigned his place in the cabinet and then his seat in Parliament. I am fairly confident that working for Demos doesn’t carry the same salary or kudos. He struck me as an individual who was generally interested in political ideas and political change. 
    In addition, it seems to me that ‘Blairism’ as a label has become a term of abuse that makes no meaningful reference to political ideas  or political projects.
    The party has been, and always will be, a pluralistic body and there is a rich tradition of political thought coming from what is crudely identified as the ‘right’ of the party. Furthermore, given that the party has always been focused on the aim of gaining control of the levers of state power and (given that the prospect of the dawning of a socialist utopia evaporated in the early decades of the last century) it has been persistently concerned with pragmatism and improving the immediate living conditions of the mass of the people. I can’t really see that ‘Blairites’ have not contributed in a general way towards this project. Like the rest of us in the party this appears to be their preoccupation. DM’s remarks here seem to be in that tradition and should play an important role in the development of the party’s programme for the next election.

    • Anonymous

      So you think a bloke who had serious problem with his expenses, had the BBC and ITV showing the mess he made at his Flat, lost his deposit then  flipped his homes  so he did not pay any tax, is morally a good bloke, then tell me if he was so bloody great why did he leave.

      The bloke gave the sick and the disabled the WCA.

      Or are you another of these Tories who came over to labour because Thatcher left power it does seem like it

      • Bill Oconnor

        I don’t recall saying anything about his morality. 

    • Anonymous

      If Blairism has become a label of with no reference to political ideas or projects, whose fault must that be? Perhaps because Blairism is an empty and barren concept deviod of these things and little more than a stylistic approach to winning elections by saying whatever is deemed effective in pushing the correct electoral buttons. To begin with thinking about how you present your position makes sense, I think if Blairism stands for anything it will be where that line between presenting ideas to choosing ideas purely on how they could be presented lies. Blairism is not an ideology and the use of this word will evaporate in the decades to come other then to describe the spin phenomena.

    • Anonymous

      Purnell resigned a few hours before the polls closed on the evening of the EU elections in 2009. It was part of what was widely regarded as a staged action by Hazel Blears, Caroline Flint and Purnell in the belief that David Miliband was about to declare his leadership intentions.

      D Miliband bottled it, and Purnell & co were regarded as having acted in a selfish and duplicitous manner, and showing great disloyalty.

      Had Miliband done what they thought he would do, Purnell would have probably been looking forward to a top position in a DM cabinet.

      With an end to his ministerial career, and as treborc quite rightly says further down, his blatant dishonesty with his expenses, one can only suspect that Purnell knew he would either have to remain a backbencher for years (not a nice prospect for a young man in a hurry), he may even have feared losing his seat at the 2010 election (after all Tony McNulty and other grasping expense scroungers did). Whatever, he made great efforts to ensure Jonathan Reynolds replaced him as PPC for Stallybridge and Purnell went off to DEMOS (who like to THINK they have great influence, wether or not they do).

      All a bit sad really. Purnell  likes to imagine he has great foresight and intellectual capacity, he now seems to be the “Norma Desmond” character in “Sunset Boulevard” – ‘I’m ready for my close-up now, Mr DeMille!’

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  • Anonymous

    Err because that ‘blairite’ wing would endorse the welfare reform bill in its virtual entirety. The real problem Labour has at the moment, is that most of the dreaful things this gvt is trying to bring in are merely logical extensions of what we were doing in Labour. However I genuinely believe that many of these things were pretty unpopular and often did not work, and were partly responsible for why the Party did so badly in the last but one election.

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