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Coffee House

The other Miliband under attack

4 February 2012

10:42 AM

4 February 2012

10:42 AM

By now, we’re all used to waking up to newspaper columns describing Ed
Miliband’s flaws and proclaiming him unfit to lead the Labour party. But today, it’s David Miliband who’s under fire in two articles – one by Roy Hattersley in the Guardian and the other by Matthew Norman in the Telegraph.

They’re both in response to the elder Miliband’s New Statesman article, the significance of
which Pete wrote about on Thursday. In Hattersley’s case, it’s a direct response,
as it is his views that Miliband rejected, labelling them ‘Reassurance Labour’ and saying:

‘The problem with the definition of social democratic politics by the Reassurance Labour tendency is not just that it reduces our chances of election, but rather that its vision is too
narrow, its mechanisms too one-dimensional, and its effectiveness too limited. The debate is not whether one side is unprincipled; instead, it is who is right.’

[Alt-Text]


Hattersley’s article, for the most part, is a rebuttal to this attack, and a defence of his view that ‘equality’ should be the goal of the Labour party and ‘State
action is vital to the achievement of a more equal society’. But he concludes with a sharp criticism of David Miliband himself, suggesting that he lacks ‘courage and character’,
which – apparently – he thinks Ed Miliband doesn’t:

‘David makes the tired old jibe about the luxury of “principle without power”. But we believe that future office will elude us until we establish a distinctive radical
reputation. That requires a leader who has the courage and character to acknowledge the fundamental flaws in New Labour thinking. It is one of the reasons why we voted for Ed Miliband 18 months
ago.’

Matthew Norman, meanwhile, likens David’s interventions to a game of ‘Knock Down Ginger’:

‘He charges up to the door and boldly rings the bell, but at the first sound of footsteps from within, he scuttles away and hides in the bushes sucking his thumb.’

The New Statesman article, he says, is another thinly-veiled attempt by David to say ‘Ed stinks, and it should have been me, me, me, me, meeeeeeeee’. And unlike the general
consensus, Norman thinks that the elder Miliband ‘would have been much, much worse’ as Labour leader. He also claims David lacks his brother’s courage – although he means it
in a very different sense to Hattersley:

‘Little Ed may have lethal presentational problems, but he also has guts. When he wanted the leadership, he rang the doorbell and charged into the house, even though it meant trampling
over his poor old mum’s heart.’

All of this serves as a well-timed reminder that, while David Miliband has become a sort of symbol for the oh-so-much-brighter future Labour could’ve had if they’d not picked
Ed to lead them, he had his flaws too. He is, as Norman says, ‘no lavishly gifted communicator himself’. He would’ve had plenty of criticism from within and without the Labour
party, would’ve faced the same (if not a stronger) ‘proximity problem’ to the old
government, and we’d have been often reminded that he lacked the guts to take on Brown back in 2008. It suggests that those who despair of Ed and pine for David might want to be careful what
they wish for.

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