The Tale of Two Milibands

When I went away for the weekend, I was so sure that David Miliband was going to be the next Labour leader and I wrote this post. It became inappropriate as David lost to his brother in a tight election that definitely surprised me, and concerned me a little. The Labour leadership election is in fact the most inclusive leadership election in Britain: 350,000 people cast their ballots compared to 200,000 voters at Conservative Party leadership elections and 50,000 at Liberal Democrats’. David Miliband won 53% of MP/MEPs’ votes, and 54% of Labour Party Members’ votes but what carried Edward Miliband to victory was the union bloc vote. He won a decisive 60% of Union vote, which means this victory marks the return of union politics.

In retrospect, it doesn’t surprise me at all: after an election defeat, political parties sometimes go for a more radical candidate: hence, in US, Goldwater in 1964, McGovern in 1974, and current movements within Republican party; in UK, Michael Foot in 1980, a succession of Tories from 1997-2005. David Miliband’s defeat was sad reminder that Labour not only lost an election but also its centre. I met Ed Miliband in Copenhagen last December; he was a tireless worker and a wonderful intellectual, but also inexperienced in statecraft and diplomacy.

David Miliband, well he was a different story. In my opinion, he got too much crap for the above banana story (I am not helping here either). He was merely holding a banana in one of one-too-many photo-ops a politician witnesses; during the 2008 Labour conference in Manchester, he walked into the conference centre clutching his banana in the fashion of a handgun, prompting one photographer to joke: “Don’t shoot.” Maybe it was David’s insistence that he be taken seriously despite his age that made this photo an instant ironic classic. In the end, this (his arrogance, not banana) and his failure to conceal his ambitions for higher office, probably did him in.

9 thoughts on “The Tale of Two Milibands

  1. Whilst it is true that parties tend to go for more radical candidates after an election, I would not call Ed Miliband radical.

    If Labour wanted to be radical, it would of voted for Diane Abbot. This election simply shows a modest left shift away from the deeply unpopular policies of Blair/Brown.

    You also have been fooled by the right-wing press smearing of Ed Miliband as the ‘Union’ candidate.

    Most notably, there is no union block vote.

    Individual members of trade unions have individual votes as they are affiliate members. How about digging up a picture of John Smith circa 1994 during the ‘One Member, One Vote’ conference. A debate that John Smith won.

    Secondly, take the time to look at the voting figures [ ].

    You’ll see that whilst Ed did win significant support from affiliated members (1st round, Section 3), so did his brother David. It is the fact that Ed was the second choice for most union members that swung it on later rounds.

    • thx for the reply. the voting graph is very interesting — sir humphrey will be awfully proud — it is the most unclear and simplistic, so are the quotes that ed won only four of 12 unions. the four he won (UCATT, GMB, Unison and UNITE) has the most members.

      the voting breakdowns for each of the unions is the graph i wld love to see.

  2. If Ed is “radical”, wait for the next cracking future!
    Even the middle class safety bubble is bound to burst sooner or later!Obviously you want it later, I know it already happen, but still stubbornly unnoticed !

  3. Just to re-iterate – your post is incorrect in stating that there is a union block vote. There isn’t. While I’m as cautious as you about EM’s qualifications for the job, the idea being put about by the Conservatives and the right wing press that he is somehow in the pocket of the unions is both wrong and insulting to the individuals who voted for him, as individuals.

    By USA measures, EM may appear radical. In the UK he certainly doesn’t.

    (You run a wonderful blog.)

    • thanks for an educated reply — i don’t usually reply to posts but….

      many things i have been hearing from labour members both in white hall and brussels are off the record and cannot be recounted, but i can tell you that the idea of active union involvement was not solely entertained by the right side of the political aisle.

      whether there was bloc voting perhaps depends on what you saw in the guardian or the telegraph. for me one big indicator of improper union involvement was the fact that Unite sent ballots together with a leaflet pledging support for Ed.

  4. I’m intrigued by your view of `most inclusive’ – could it be that more people vote simply because there are more Labour Party branch members than Tory or LibDem members?

    It’s no more inclusive if only your own branch members can take part.

  5. The norm for this blog. Nice pics and the accompanying ignorant commentary.

    No block votes from the unions. Just a block headed blogger.

    Stick to the pics. The rest is embarrassing.

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