Thursday, September 02, 2010

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.


At 3:23 pm , Blogger Tom said...

Interesting reasons. And I'm surprised you think Ed will win; I'm voting (indeed, have already voted) for Ed, but am increasingly thinking that David will win.

I find myself very torn with David. On the one hand, I recognise the good policies and ideas that you mention; on the other, I just don't think he would provide a sufficiently clean sign to the electorate that we're repentant about our mistakes. While there may be significant differences in individual policies, he still *feels* very like a continuity candidate, in a way that Ed M, Diane and even Andy don't. I hope I'm wrong.

(Though more than that, I hope I'm wrong about who wins, and that David instead becomes shadow business secretary, where I think he could be truly excellent.)

At 5:51 pm , Anonymous Daniel said...


At 9:42 pm , Anonymous Stuart said...

It'll be interesting to note how strong the Ed-having-to-turn-right-David-having-to-turn-left theory turns out to be (for whichever one wins). In practice there doesn't seem to be a great deal of policy difference between Ed and David, but for me Ed expresses himself and his Labour values with more confidence and ease than David. I think David has the Gordon problem in that because he's been described as emotionally cold (whether or not he actually is) he makes a special effort to not appear like that, which then ends up coming across (to me) as slightly forced.

I've been wondering where David would do if Ed won - Shad Biz Sec is a possibility. I know it's not the most glamorous of offices, but I think it would really send a strong message about Labour's commitment to change if David made a bid to become Communities & Local Gov. Shadow

At 3:14 am , Anonymous tim f said...

Dan - couldn't you make a similar list for Blair pre-1997? Windfall tax, minimum wage, human rights act etc? After an initial burst of slightly social democratic policies I fear David Miliband would retreat to the comfort zone of his main supporters - ie public service "reform" etc. Ed Miliband may well do too, but he would be under more pressure from the unions & lefties who've backed him to be leader than David Miliband would be.

At 7:25 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Tim. Ed M may not tack to the right as much under pressure from the Tories as you think. He's certainly mounted vigorous defences of his ideas and values against attacks from Mandelson in this campaign.

If someone had told you, not so very long ago, that there would be a centre-left Labour leadership candidate as competent and credible as Ed Miliband surely you would have been delighted?

At 7:28 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and backed them to the hilt.

At 11:38 am , Blogger Chris Brooke said...

Why do you think Ed Miliband will win, when the other day you said (I think) that the Mirror endorsement would tip the contest, & since then the Mirror has come out for David?

At 1:59 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

Thanks to all for v good comments:

"After an initial burst of slightly social democratic policies I fear David Miliband would retreat to the comfort zone of his main supporters - ie public service "reform" etc."

But as a minister, he was never one of the ultra-Blairite reformers - Climate Change Act, Building Schools for the Future and helping with the improvements in local government. And his movement for change would provide an impetus to address the issues that matter to people. We can never know, but I just don't think he is very like Tony Blair.

On the foreign policy, I think that any of them (except for Diane) would have done the same as Foreign Sec over the attempts to block details of the torture evidence (e.g. I don't think Ed M or the others have said that they would have ordered an inquiry). I can't imagine David M backing an attack on Iran, and more generally I think that foreign policy is something where he and his brother seem to agree about the future.

"Why do you think Ed Miliband will win, when the other day you said (I think) that the Mirror endorsement would tip the contest, & since then the Mirror has come out for David?"

Just from chatting to LP members and activists, plus the Blair book really damaged his brother's campaign.

"If someone had told you, not so very long ago, that there would be a centre-left Labour leadership candidate as competent and credible as Ed Miliband surely you would have been delighted?"

A very fair point. But I'm even more delighted that the centre-left consensus even includes the so-called 'Blairite' candidate.

At 6:43 pm , Anonymous Daniel said...

it has been quite clear to me that there are significant differences in attitude between the milibands in relation to both foreign and defence policy. moreover david miliband was a totally awful foreign secretary on so many levels.

yeah maybe the rest of them would have been as bad in the job. the hustings suggest not.

At 10:40 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, we'll just have to disagree that the centre-left consensus includes David M. Not being able to bring himself to say even that the 50p tax rate should be kept permanently or that the Darling ratio of spending cuts to tax rises was wrong rather excludes him, in my view.

At 10:25 am , Anonymous Trevor D said...

Burnham's been hopeless on the NHS?! You've really paid a lot of attention to this campaign then, when he has single-handedly taken the fight to the Tories - something you're own man David Miliband has acknowledged at hustings after hustings. That's the problem with blogs - some thoughts really ought to be kept in your head, because the moment you articulate them, you don't look so good.

At 10:36 am , Blogger donpaskini said...

I've paid more attention to the campaign than roughly 99% of the public, and the main message that I've heard from Andy Burnham is that he thinks Labour should cut the NHS by more than the Tories.

Compare and contrast the way Ed Balls destroyed the government's plans on education with Burnham's ineffectiveness on the NHS. Pretty much no one knows about how Lansley's plans are designed to enable the takeover of the NHS by American private healthcare firms.

Of course David Miliband says nice things about Andy Burnham in hustings - he wants the second preferences of his supporters. But as a shadow health secretary, Burnham has been hopeless.

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