Category Archives: David Milliband

Milliband Pragmatism


I believe that the first duty of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Parliament is to oppose. But is it right to oppose measures some of which you approve in order to get the other lot out? Lenin would have had no difficulty. His objective was the overthrow capitalism and its replacement  with a socialism. To hell with sensible social democratic reforms and shoot the bankers. You know the kind of thing. Long live the Revolution. What approach will Labour under Ed Milliband do?

Ed has already given us clues. The Coalition has come up with a Constitutional Bill , one of whose objectives is to cement Coalition rule for five years and to make it more difficult for the Coalition parties to win next time by changing the electoral system and gerrymandering the constituencies. In his Conference speech Ed told us that he is in favour of electoral reform and   will support AV in the proposed Referendum. How about changes to the Benefit System? Ed says he will support sensible changes to reform Benefit Entitlement  and so get more people into work. But would he support these changes if accompanied by an end to universal benefits, to Child Allowances, and the Winter Fuel Allowance, for example, to enable expensive reform to go ahead? Can you have one without the other? Ed is watching the progress of the Hutton enquiry into pay differentials, and no doubt talking to him (Why not? They must know each other well.) If Hutton comes up with sensible proposals, we might infer that they would have Labour support. 

These examples show that Ed is not RED in any meaningful sense. He is in that that tepid category of social reformers, of which I am one, who is prepared to support policies which realise social democratic aspirations. And he is a pragmatic with it.

Labour support for sound social democratic polices is to be welcomed as a contribution to good governance. What else could we desire? Might it not encourage alliance building acroos the floor of the House? Might it become more difficult for the Far Right to move the Coalition in reactionary directions and moderate the worst of the cuts? Might it in some circumstances encourage Lib Dems to vote against socially divisive policies that they abhor? Might cross party voting become the norm in this Parliament? Can some Lib Dems join with Labour and vote out damaging cuts across the floor of the House?

Moderation such as this is to be welcomed. It will be welcomed by the mass of the electorate because this is what it wants. If our Dave and Boy George become aware of open up opposition in the House might they not, even at this late stage, moderate their enthusiasm for cuts? It is possible. Might this be the tenor of discussions between the Labour Party and Charles Kennedy? No need to leave the House or quit the Lib Dems. Join together with Labour and vote out that which you think disastrous and wrong. I have always thought that there was enough cunning in the Tory camp to avoid this, that there is a Plan B and perhaps a Plan C. Who knows? Of course, I could be wrong. Ed could be wrong. In this case perhaps I shall bring out my Red Flag and chant Long Live Lenin with the rest of them.

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Three of a Kind


Ruthlessness is a underestimated political virtue. With the election of Ed Miliband as Leader of the Labour Party, we have three ruthless, youngish, men leading our main political parties and the ‘game is a-foot’. Ed Milliband has had the courage to sweep his brother aside, separate himself from a past that had in the end failed his party, and  thus able to re-shape the social democratic message to an electorate that may be  willing, if not now at some time, to listen to him. This is precisely the path that Cameron and Clegg have taken in the pursuit of power. And this is what WE ELECTORS expect of them all.

For the moment the Coalition is centre stage. If we are to be fair they are confronted with a massive challenge to deal with a budget deficit that could swallow us all in a ‘black hole’. Fortunately for Labour it can stand aside if it wishes and the fruit may fall off the tree. If so it must be far more effective in deflecting the blame for our economic woes away from a Labour Government that in some ways failed us. If these massive Coalition budget cuts do not work out well, and they might not, it won’t matter. A decent par round will do the job. After all I remember Nick Faldo winning a major with a final round without any birdies. If the economic outcome is indecisive with a long period of modest growth, which seems to me to be the likely outcome, playing a straight bat and making the right noises (to mix my sporting metaphors) may still do the job. According to the OBR there is a 40 percent chance of the Coalition economic policy producing the goods. Of course the OBR is now under different management so the odds may change by end October. but at the moment the odds are not unattractive.

What should Ed do? Having cleared a space for himself he might place a stress on competence, new faces, appropriate noises, not too many policy initiatives; an Opposition that is co-operative but determined, with  emphasis on a few political strategic issues of importance to us all and where he can win. Push, push, push and hold onto everything he wins.

Can he do it? I think, yes. So far he has been very brave, determined and right. But not many, not really, are watching, and he will not be able to hold the stage. But what an opportunity he has for striking electoral gains in Scotland, Wales and much of England by next May. We all love a winner.

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All Right on the Night?


The play has been extensively rehearsed. Not everything has been well executed. Observors have remarked that there has been too much playing to the gallery. Not all has been word perfect. But at  4pm on Saturday next all this comes to an end and all (if not all, many) eyes will turn to centre stage. Enter stage left our leader and prophet. And what will he say? We should know but we don’t.

The actor has the briefest of moments to catch our attention. We know the play but as lovers of this form of entertainment we remain open to its eternal attraction. We long for  a new interpretation, a new vision. Even at this moment we are distracted by other visions. I knew this player’s father. I get an image of a semi circular group of us lapping up something called historic inevitability. Karl Marx had a neat turn of phrase. I remember, ‘Man is responsible for his own destiny but not the circumstances in which he must find it.’  Or something like that. Our principal actor is now responsible for his fate and the blessed Gordon of beloved memory is no more.

And he says…Well, of course, I do not know what he will say. What he must demonstrate in a very few words is that he is a pathfinder. He must have a vision of an alternative Britain to the one the Coalition offers the voters. A vision true to the past, which takes account of the reasons which enabled the Coalition parties to grab power and  to the necessary changes that are occuring in British society and he must give us – the voters- hope for a better future.

I can offer no advice. It is too late for that. What I do know is that while this leading player must oppose, for it is the first duty of a Parliamentary Opposition to do so, he must also propose. What is the Big Idea? In an edeavour to distinguish themselves with the Labour Party electorate, the leading actors gave us parodies of their Big Concepts. One of these Milliband’s  gave us the concept of Back to the Future, we had the Party of the Working Class and  the Man of the North while Diane Abbott was content with The Past We Never Had. None of these will do for the real electorate.

Here is a warning. Fail this test and the game is up. Prepare well for it because if feet begin to shuffle this play is over and something more traditional takes its place. Of course, a good beginning is not everything. But the experienced actor senses the moment, an almost audible sigh of contentment grips the viewers, it is content, expectant and a magic has been woven linking audience with actor. Now is the hour of… Well go on finish it!

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Stop the Labour Leadership Vote!


This is an urgent post and one which requires your immediate attention. I have had complaints about the Labour leadership campaign. Some people have described the last tedious weeks as akin to a shy ostrich marooned in an unfriendly space with its head in the sand. I do not think this is entirely apposite. These 5 candidates are not shy and withdrawing: they are loud and demonstrative. But I get the point. They cannot work out what has become of them and prefer to seek solace in the past. However, it will be obvious that if you stick your head in the ground you see nothing at all. Competition brings specialisation: you have the expert nerd with a LOT of experience, the assertive younger son with a specialisation in opposites, the man of the North and hence of the PEOPLE, the bluff man of commonsense with a gift for figures, and a portly, posh black women, who in all her lengthy parliamentary experience has never made it even to the humble position of PPS but now fancies herself as PM. These 5 have in much in common: they are all Oxbridge graduates,  they dress and speak well (in this they clearly have much in common with Nick and Dave), you could bring any of them home to tea and mum would approve. As far as I can gather none of them have had a ‘real’ job. They are not educated in the university of ‘hard knocks’ and what adversity they have suffered since UNI has been of their own making.

So what, you might say. All this cleverness and lack of sweat is what we expect of our political leaders now. Well, yes. But I draw your attention to what has happened since the General Election. In effect Labour has been leaderless although Hariet Harman did us all a favour by revealing our Dave’s lack of attention to detail and the nature of his bullying. She is on holiday now, Parliament is in recess, the sun shines, production rises, we no longer witness shouting and ranting, no more unnecessary laws are hitting the statute books. People could be happy. Over this period of repose and relaxation Labour’s standing with the electorate has risen in the opinion polls and in the natural course of events (and without a leader) will overtake the Tories. Some readers have an instinctive understanding  of the true political position of the Labour Party.Let the Coalition commit hara-kiri  with its programme of cuts, and say tut tut without  a single cross word or the proposal of  any troublesome alternatives.  Coalition MPs will fall about arguing with each other. Why then disturb people with the election of a troublesome busy-busy Leader of the Opposition?

We could ask Harriet to shoulder on. It is her duty. I do not know who was writing her scripts but whoever it was Harriet should stay friendly with him/her. Roll on  laughter, goodness and friendly behaviour and DOWN with scandal, slogans, and ill intent. And can it be kept going, month after month, year after year? Can we usher in a decade of happiness? Our only hope, say correspondents, if we cannot stop this unnecessary and unhelpful election,  is to leave the voting paper on the mantelpiece. Let us proclaim our belief, not in more or less government, but good government, good-sense, and toleration. It is our only hope.

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No Labour Resting Place


In politics there are two things you should not vote for: standing still and moving backwards. The first of these seeming options rests on the assumption that the duty of the Opposition is to oppose – a necessary function –  and not to propose. I guess the electorate is  heartily tired of the obfuscation of all Labour politicians confronted with the straight question of how to deal with the deficit. What would you cut then ? And to reform. Does the NHS need reform and if so of what should a reform programme consist?  The second option is even worse. Going backwards to a golden age leads to nowhere. There was no golden age. Your father may have known Lloyd George but I doubt it. The 1983 Labour Manifesto stands as a stark warning. Described as ‘the longest suicide note in history’ it led an enthusiastic Labour Party to the brink of disaster. In retrospect we all adore Michael Foot. In my experience of him Michael had one speech and a very good one at that. The first time I heard it I was greatly moved, on the second occasion I clapped politely, and on all subsequent occasions I made for the exit. But like a good sermon it should not be lightly abandoned.

Reform is both necessary and, in the end, unpopular. But there is no alternative. Hard judgemnts have to be made; and, yes,  some people lose their jobs and retrain for others. Reform is inconvenient: few people want constant change. Stop the train, I want to get off. Gordon, of blessed memory, wanted to get off, the Parliamentary Party was fed up with the constant stream of reform bills, trade unionists just hated losing members and tea and crumpets in Downing Street. Let’s get rid of this man Blair who wins us all these elections and restate Labour values and policies. It’s Buggins turn. He has waited too long and no.10 is his by right of presence and ‘all who sail in her.’ Well, we know where this led the Labour Party.

What has this got to do with anything? Well there is this issue of the election of a new Labour Party leader. Who should we vote for? Choice is always a difficult matter BUT thank goodness there is choice on this occasion. My advice to a perplexed electorate is to choose the person who most wishes to commit him/herself to a rational reform programme and studiously refrain from voting for any candidate who makes you yearn for the past – the illusory golden past. Choose the candidate who will give the Labour enthusiast a hard time, will make you think hardest, who will lead you to new pastures.

Well cocky, you might say, if you are so clever dick, tell me  who is this person of steely resolve and visionary gifts? I’m so sorry. I  have listened, I have read, but alas I cannot tell you? Perhaps you, if you have been thinking about it, would kindly tell me how you are going to vote?

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Mandelson and the Millibands


Contrary to many comments, Labour members have a choice at the coming leadership election; between a long term commitment to  reassuring their members and erstwhile supporters or winning new adherents to an appealing alternative programme to  Coalition budget cuts and an immediate challenge to its authority.

There is a case for either. What do we think will happen? Can the Coalition be swept aside by public repuganance to its programme. If Boy George is stupid enought to press on with 25-40% public expenditure cuts when the economic recovery is stuttering to a halt, public repugnance may sweep the Coalition aside and the Labour Party might achieve a majority in its own right in an early election. If you believe that there is no space for genuflecting to a pre-New Labour past, teeth-gnashing and confession. If you believe the first, you should  vote for David Milliband. As the person with the most serious, senior experience of Government, he is your man for a snap General Election. It is said that David Cameron’s nightmares are focussed on the possibility of a quick and bloodless Labour transition to David Milliband.

Labour voters have an alternative candidate in Ed Balls. If you believe that the issue of the economy will be the one and over-riding issue of this notional snap election then Ed Balls is your man. At his best Ed Balls has  Churchillian qualities: he is pugnacious, and combative and (with a little help on delivery)  the best equipped candidate to be convincing on the economy. But for the disasters of war, Churchill would not have found his way to power in 1940. Do we not have economic disasters of commensurate gravity now?

If you believe that the Coalition will last a full term, which remains the view of academic pundits and right-wing journalists, Labour does not need David Milliband or Ed Balls. Anyone will do. Why not the engaging and popular Ed Milliband. If the latter it is likely that good sense will disappear in a welter of apologies for the past and the party will cease to be relevant. Labour will risk being  out of power for a very long time.

I favour an endeavour to sweep the Coalition from power as soon as possible before too much damage has been done to British society. There is a military analogy. Can we summon up the blood and sinews (do we have the will and have we got enough money); can we few, when confronted by the many triumph, (although weak, do we have a winning  strategy and do our enemies have exploitable waeknesses), if we are prepared can we catch them unprepared (do not underestimate your enemy he has probably anticipated your coming).

The Coalition cannot be assured of the whole hearted support of its troops: there are weaknesses on the  left flank, some of who have deserted the field and others who are switching sides. After a period of negotiation a cavalry charge is required here.

So in the final issue the choice is clear. For Victory in an early battle choose one of two Generals David Milliband or Ed Balls; for a long and inconclusive guerilla campaign, select Captain Ed Milliband.

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