Wednesday News Review


A bit of brotherly love from both Milibands at hustings

The Leadership

“It’s easy for me – it’s not on all issues that blood is thicker than water, but I only have one brother standing,” said David Miliband. “I nominated Diane but I fear I would disappoint her (when the votes are cast).” His brother Ed responded: “I would nominate David – I think his qualities speak for themselves but obviously he would be a fantastic leader.” Diane Abbott summed up: “You can see their mum has got them in line on this. Canary Wharf hustings – Docklands 24.

Normally in a Labour leadership election people like us either profess disinterest (or, possibly, even uninterest), or make jokes about intrusions into private grief. I think it would be unwise to be so flippant. I have never set foot in a bookmaker’s in my life, but were I that sort of person, I would be seeing what odds I could get on Ed Miliband’s being prime minister this time next year. Oh, I know he’s the less famous one, and it has been decreed that the Coalition is going to last five years: but stranger things have happened. Therefore, we might take notice of what the Labour Party, in what the media represent as being a quiet period in its fortunes, is up to. – The Telegraph.


The popularity of Miliband senior among wider voters also suggests that he may do better than expected in the trade union membership section of the electoral college. However, brother Ed won the backing of the GMB last week and Mr Balls is also expected to do well among unions. – Evening Standard.

[David] Miliband’s remarks are highly significant. He might have been tempted to use an interview with one of Scotland’s main newspapers to pat Labour on the back. Labour performed strongly north of the border, increasing its share of the vote by 2.5 points to 42%. The former foreign secretary certainly hailed Labour’s victory in Scotland as “fantastic”. But his main message in the interview was an uncomfortable home truth: Labour can take no comfort from the election result.- The Guardian.

David Miliband, the shadow foreign secretary, is the preferred choice of business leaders and ordinary voters to secure the Labour leadership, two opinion polls have found. However, most people have yet to make up their mind between the five contenders for the Labour crown. In the first poll, 53 per cent of voters said that they were undecided, including one in three Labour voters. – The Telegraph.

Brown’s Pollster

The Times reportedly paid £350,000 to serialise Lord Mandelson’s book. My budget for book serialisations is rather more modest – but I did manage to wangle a copy of Deborah Mattinson’s book, Talking to a Brick Wall, and it’s definitely worth a blog. Mattinson was involved in polling and focus group research for Labour for 25 years, and describes herself on the dustjacket as “chief pollster to Gordon Brown”, although the book reveals that they fell out before the 2010 election. – The Guardian.

Digging up the death tax

During the election campaign Andrew Lansley, the new Health Secretary, attacked Labour plans to force people to provide for care whether they needed it or not.  He helped draw up hard-hitting posters highlighting Labour’s “death tax”. Alongside pictures of gravestones were the words “Gordon Brown wants £20,000 when you die.” It has now been was disclosed that a commission set up by Mr Lansley to examine how care for the elderly would be paid for in the future could still look at the option of a compulsory levy. – The Telegraph.


Darling: will he tell all?

Darling revelations?

Alistair Darling has hinted that he might one day tell the story of how the “forces of hell” were unleashed on him by certain Brownites after the then chancellor told the Guardian in 2008 that the economic conditions were “arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years”. Speaking at a New Statesman discussion sponsored by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales in the City last night, Darling also hinted that he may quit parliament within this term. – New Statesman.

Big Society

Where Tony Blair liked rearranging deckchairs, Mr Cameron plans to torpedo the cruise ship. The sink or swim society is upon us, and woe betide the poor, the frail, the old, the sick and the dependent. Labour, which should be mounting a concerted attack, is instead enduring a double dose of slash-and-burn. The policies of 13 years are being trashed by the Lib Cons, while the party reels under Lord Mandelson’s friendly fire. – The Telegraph.

Labour can hardly be blamed for wanting to join in this kickfest. Ed Miliband wasted no time, branding the big society – which hopes to see citizens, local communities, voluntary groups and philanthropists take on tasks currently performed by central government – a return to “a 19th-century or US-style view of our welfare state”, comparisons that were not meant as compliments. Yet insults and sniggers, however enjoyable, might not be the right response. For this is a rare case of the wrong person at the wrong time and in the wrong way delivering the right idea – an idea that Labour and the left would be foolish to reject. – Jonathan Friedland, The Guardian.

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