Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ed Miliband won because he was neither Blair nor Brown.

They have had a night to digest the information, and this morning the reviews are coming in.

Andrew Rawnsley is predictably looking at what might go wrong.

You have just become the 10th postwar leader of the Labour party. It is a sobering thought that only five of them (Attlee, Wilson, Callaghan, Blair and Brown) became prime minister; only three (Attlee, Wilson and Blair) won elections; and just one (Blair) managed to secure more than a single term with a decent parliamentary majority. After being removed from office, Labour tends to spend a long time out of power: after 1951, 13 long years; after 1979, 18 even longer years; after 2010… Well, that is now in your hands.
This ignores the fact that Labour, prior to their latest election defeat, had just won three elections in a row, and had replaced the Conservatives as the natural government of the UK. Indeed, the Conservatives were so mistrusted that the public couldn't bring themselves to give them an outright victory even in the midst of an economic meltdown.

And one seriously has to wonder, once the scale of Osborne's cuts become clear, whether they will survive the orgy of financial savagery in which they are indulging. It is undoubtedly true that everyone agrees that cuts have to be made, but no-one is convinced that the deficit has to be cleared in one term, as the Con-Dem coalition are insisting upon.

So I think Rawnsley's view of things is, as always, slightly skewered towards the Tories.

Jonathan Freedland,
on the other hand, thinks that Ed won because he was neither Brown nor Blair.

Almost uniquely in the war between the Blair and Brown camps, Ed Miliband somehow emerged unscathed – Tony Blair's team in Number 10 used to refer to the younger Miliband as "the emissary from Planet Fuck", one of the few aides to Gordon Brown with whom they could have a conversation free of expletive-filled abuse. That fact, more perhaps than any other, explains why he has just become, albeit by the narrowest of margins, the 18th leader of the Labour party.

Despite rave reviews, which became more glowing the longer the contest went on, Ed Balls's campaign was hobbled from the start by his association with Brown. By Balls's own admission, he just couldn't get past the tag of Brown's closest confidant.

David Miliband suffered similarly, compromised by his status as the candidate of Blairite continuity. Tony Blair's not-so-coded backing for him, along with Peter Mandelson's warning that his younger brother would lead Labour into an "electoral cul-de-sac", may well have been a kiss of death.

I think Freedland is right. The party grew sick of Tony Blair which is why he was driven from office. We embraced him for as long as he delivered election victories until, eventually, even that was not a good enough reason to have him around. Gordon was an honourable man, but he lost.

David Miliband and Ed Balls were both seen as being firmly in the Blair and Brown camps respectively.

Ed managed, somehow, to avoid that trap.

But, this morning, one inevitably feels for David, the vanquished of the two brothers. I didn't want to see him elected, as I thought he was far too much of a Blairite, but it is, nevertheless, impossible not to feel for him in his present situation. For so long the crown had appeared as if it was his for the taking. Indeed, during the premiership of Brown there was often talk of when Miliband - always meaning David - would make his move.

Now, the chance of that crown is gone for good.

The Miliband brothers were brought up in a tight-knit family. Their fondness for one another was evident last night – at the very moment one brother reached the summit but, in so doing, left the other's life's ambition in ruins.

Ed's coronation was an extraordinarily poignant moment that David Miliband had feared, in the latter stages of the contest, he might have to confront. When it came he did so nobly. Afterwards he said the moment was Ed's. He was as thrilled for him as he was disappointed for himself. He made it clear that he loved his brother and that now, with the contest over, he wanted nothing other than for him to succeed as Labour leader.

But if managing the choreography of defeat was difficult, the process of deciding on his own future will be nothing short of agonising. His aides admitted, even before the result, that if David lost he would be "totally shattered". He would need time to think about the future. Decisions would not be rushed. It was not correct, they said, that he had decided already that he would promptly announce his intention to serve in his brother's shadow cabinet. "David will take his time," said one of his team. "In that sort of moment you can't rush. He will spend time with Louise [his wife] and their boys and think hard about what is best." Last night he merely congratulated his brother and called on the party to unite behind him. The reality is that David Miliband now has to think entirely anew about the rest of his professional life.

I hope David continues in the shadow cabinet. I would like to see him and his brother serve in a future Labour government.

His greatest mistake was that, like Blair, he never made any attempt to placate the left wing of the party. His brother did, which is why - by the narrowest of margins - he is the one left holding the crown.

That, and the fact that he seemed to transcend the Blair-Brown wars. Now, Ed has the job, and it would be great to watch his brother stick around and support him in the gargantuan task of getting Labour back into power. I hope David feels that he can do so.

It would be perfectly understandable were he to now fix his gaze towards Europe, but I would prefer it were he to remain very much in Labour's inner circle.

Click here for full article.

No comments: