Why I'm voting for David Miliband
I think it is an enormously encouraging sign that the so-called "heir to Blair", "continuity New Labour" candidate for the Labour leadership believes in:
- an economic strategy which aims to halve unemployment
- a living wage
- doubling the bank levy
- a mansion tax on the wealthiest homeowners to reverse housing benefit cuts
- withdrawing charitable status from private schools to pay for an expansion of free school meals
- defending universal benefits
- marriage equality for same sex couples
- a comprehensive strategy to rid the world of nuclear weapons
- training 1,000 future leaders to campaign in their communities
- building more affordable homes and creating more green jobs as part of an industrial strategy to reduce Britain's dependency on the City of London
There are all sorts of ways in which the Labour leadership contest could have turned into a total disaster for the party, but it has been good humoured and actually showed how much common ground there is within the Labour Party. Some disappointments - Andy Burnham has been hopeless on the health service, Ed Balls on immigration and Diane Abbott's campaign has been a bit feeble. Both Ed Balls and Diane Abbott have a lot to contribute to the Labour Party in the future, but I don't think either would be a very good leader.
The analysis of why Labour lost and how the party needs to change has had some odd outcomes. Ed Miliband's argument is that Labour needs to appeal to more working class voters. Yet I think the people who will find him most appealing are more affluent, liberal-minded voters (like the people who form his activist base). In contrast, I can't imagine David Miliband appealing much to the people who supported Tony Blair but don't like Labour, but his Movement for Change is the best initiative of any of the campaigns at increasing the number of working class voters who will go and vote Labour.
I think Ed Miliband is going to win, and his team have run a very good campaign. With less money, less experience and a relatively unsympathetic media, he's managed to articulate the values which most of the electorate share, and (with an assist from his brother's more inept supporters) to portray his main opponent as an out of touch "right wing" candidate, despite the lack of policy differences. At the next election, Labour will face better funded, more experienced opponents who have most of the media backing them, so Ed Miliband's skills in this regard are well worth noting.
But while I think Ed will be an excellent leader, I'm actually going to vote for David. I thought he was an excellent Cabinet Minister, in local government and in education, and I think he's got the skills to be a very different kind of leader from Tony Blair or Gordon Brown - one who will use the talents of people from across the Labour Party rather than just a small clique. As mentioned above, the actual policies that he believes in are very different from those of Blairites such as, um, Tony Blair.
When he is elected leader, Ed Miliband will come under the most terrific pressure from the opposition, media and Blairites over his supposedly radical and left-wing policies. If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls. To unite the Labour Party, Ed Miliband would need to appeal to the Right, David to the Left.
And therefore it is David, not Ed, who would have the best opportunity to change the Labour Party and achieve their and our shared goals - to build a grassroots movement to win the next election, end mass unemployment and close the gap between rich and poor.