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.’


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

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.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Boudicca

    “Tweedledum and Tweedledee
    Agreed to have a battle;
    For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
    Had spoiled his nice new rattle.”

    There is little to choose between the two; they are both dreadful. Neither achieved anything in Office (unless you count reneging on a Manifesto commitment to hold a Referendum and signing the Lisbon Treaty ‘an achievement’). They both have appalling presentational skills; niether looks ‘prime ministerial’ and both are permanently scarred by their roles in The Moron’s Cabinet.

    This is going to be like the TBGBs … only better. There’s nothing as destructive as sibling rivalry.

  • Cynic

    ‘equality’ should be the goal of the Labour party and ‘State action is vital to the achievement of a more equal society’” In other words, anybody who can run fast must be compelled to wear lead boots so they can’t possibly win.

  • Don Benson

    David Milliband’s apparent pique when he discovered that prima genitor did not apply has since been matched by his graceless lack of support for his younger brother when it would clearly be helpful. Had he behaved with more humility over this his views now (whether right or wrong) might be given a more sympathetic hearing.

  • Writeangle

    As long as the ‘we-are-useless-at-running-the country’s-finances’ debt-gorged party leans way to the left and listens to the Welsh Windbag and Hattersley then another long period in the long grass (again) is guaranteed.

  • Frank P

    Isn’t Hattersley the fellow who wrote books about his dog and who once had political aspirations, until Spitting Image named their TV comedy series after him and cattle-trucked him forever? I thought I read his obituary years ago. Not ANOTHER Mark Twain FFS?

  • Tiberius

    Roy Hattersley; I have detested this flatulent and fraudulent phoney for decades, but at least I thought we had heard the last of him.Why give space to this second rate master of the mis-diagnosis; truly expedience marked up as principle. Utterly loathsome and pompous.

  • Ostrich (occasionally)

    alexsandr 4th, 11:14am

    Ssh, Alexandr!

    They might be listening and actually take note of your point. (The Labour Party, I mean, not the opposition [They’re already in the government.])

  • Holly ……

    Labour’s idea of equality/fairness was..
    All bankers getting humungus bonuses & pay. This meant the unemployed could get more than those in work,bacause it is unfair they should be ‘poorer’ just because they are unemployed.
    Makes perfect sence if you’re as mad as a hatter.
    Hattersley eh? One of Labour’s greats.
    Was he in the hall when the gasps were clearly heard upon MiliE’s victory?
    Labour did not pick Ed.

  • dorothy wilson

    Ferrets in a sack?

  • William Blakes Ghost

    So lets do the math

    1 Dave M + 1 Ed M = Half a party leader ( or otherwise 1 Banana + 1 Wind Turbine and a screwed up Quattro Ad)

    Labour have a real problem despite what Porker Hattersley (did he star in animal farm?), who used to walk a rat on on lead past the Houses of Parliament on a daily basis, says.

  • MilkSnatcher

    Ah the invisible nuances of centre-left politics, the microscopic arguing with the nanometric. Makes the Little-Endians and the Big-Endians look like a major ideological debate. Why do you bother?

  • In2minds

    David Miliband,

    Just before the Labour Party Conference of 2007 this is what he said of Gordon Brown –

    “The caricatures that were put up about Gordon have proved to be just that.The truth is he is a man of depth – deep values, deep vision, deep sense of the future of the country, deep intellect, deep humanity”.

    That’s five deeps and a depth. And I suggest hilariously funny although somewhat unhinged. Mind you Miliband is pretty deep himself, here’s another example of his wisdom –

    “The contours of the the foreign policy landscape in the first quarter of the 21st century are now clear. They are defined, in my view, by the following notions; that in the world there is, at one and the same time, great progress and great insecurity. There is a struggle between progress and insecurity”.

    The Labour party should be thankful he is not their leader.

  • EC

    Oh, the Milibands again…

  • Austin Barry

    Dave v Ed.
    Dance of the dead.

  • alexsandr

    more infighting amongst the lefties. bring it on, the electorate love a divided party!

  • William of London

    There can surely be no doubt that if David, rather than Ed, Miliband had been ‘elected’ leader of the Labour Party in 2010, the former would now be suffering as much as the latter is. Neither has a scintilla of charisma, popular appeal or understanding; both are trapped inside their worldview that life’s victims outnumber everyone else, and that the everyone else ought to be reimbursing the victims. The Milibands have no natural constituency outside Broadcasting House. In terms of leadership, the Labour Party is in a much worse bind than the Conservatives were after 1997; the fact that Yvette Cooper can even be considered a potential leader underlines the desperation.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    If they want equality, why do they accept the idea of a leader? Just asking.