David Miliband has won, says Dan Hodges.

This Saturday David Miliband will become leader of the Labour party. He will have won a majority of his Parliamentary colleagues and the wider membership, along with sufficient support from unions and other affiliates to secure not just victory but  an overwhelming mandate. The New Labour era will be over.

A few months ago I wrote that this leadership contest would tell us more about ourselves as a party than it did the candidates contesting it. It has. Less an election, more an exercise in psychoanalysis, we’ve delved into the deepest recesses of a party’s soul. Remorse, guilt, envy, hatred, love, fear, hope. Above all, hope.

We wept for the supporters abandoned to the government’s tender mercies. Felt shame for the crimes we committed in our own ruthless pursuit of  power. Looked jealously upon those who wrested it from us.

We’ve hurled ourselves at the Tories, and honed our contempt for the Liberals. Dreamt of their precarious alliance splintering. Woken trembling from the nightmare it may not.

Throughout, we’ve looked longingly toward the horizon, straining eye and ear for the clattering of hoof or glint of sun on armour heralding the approach of a new champion.

All breathless stuff. But, as it turned out, champions were in short supply. Jon Cruddas judged the crown would lay too heavy. Harriet Harman opted not to relinquish her role as loyal deputy. Old soldiers Jack Straw, Alastair Darling and Alan Johnson sheathed their swords.

In the end, four contenders emerged, with a fifth drafted in at the last minute. And at that moment, the parameters of the campaign should have been set. With all the serious candidates coming from the centre-right of the party, the process was geared to managerial selection, rather than ideological confrontation. That it became infinitely more complex was down to a fateful strategic choice made by one of the candidates, and the emotional status of a party experiencing the political equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In retrospect, the contest can be divided into three distinct periods. The Fight For Definition, David’s Consolidation and Ed’s Dash To The Left.

At the start, the size of the field meant lots of jostling, cursing and confusion. And that was just from the people  trying to cover it. Paul Routledge can legitimately claim loyalty as the basis for his prediction of an Ed Balls victory. Paul Richards’ and James Macintyre’s argument that Diane Abbott would prevail is more difficult to rationalise. The Daily Mail’s can be filed under wishful thinking.

But during this early period each of the candidates took decisions that ultimately shaped the outcome of the race. Diane Abbott chose to play safe, pitching to her narrow constituency and going negative with a succession of  jabs at her opponents. In the debates, audiences loved it. But she squandered the opportunity to broaden her appeal, and lost momentum.

Momentum was a political commodity that remained tantalisingly beyond Andy Burnham’s reach. Playing on his northern roots, he managed to build a base, but at the price of becoming ghettoised and one dimensional.

Ed Balls opted to ignore that he was in a race at all, tearing at the hapless Michael Gove and a shell-shocked government. This display of machismo was a sound tactic on paper, and won admirers. Yet his legacy as Brown’s chief pistolero, meant that he, more than anyone, needed to address questions of biography and process. While people were searching for the warmth and empathy of a retail politician, Ed Cojones  was piling in with the knuckle duster.

All of which meant that the contest was quickly whittled  down to two. David Miliband, who unveiled a classic pitch of experience and gravitas; the man who passed the Number 10 test, (can you see him physically standing on the threshold of Downing Street, delivering bland statements about “doing not talking” while clinging, limpet-like, to his stoic wife).

And Ed Miliband, who deployed the equally classical opening gambit of the ‘change candidate’. It’s easy to forget now, but in the beginning Ed’s was a standard “change versus more of the same” mantra. The military beret, Cuban cigars and intoxicating revolutionary rhetoric were nowhere to be seen. In the speech that launched his campaign, New Labour didn’t even warrant a mention.

It was David’s message that resonated. The party needed and wanted a winner. 15 years in opposition? Bugger that. We could be fighting a new election in six months. Modernisation and change? We’ve heard that somewhere before. David consolidated.

But then the trauma of our election defeat began to play tricks with the mind. The contest was turning into another coronation. We needed a debate. We had to find a way to bury Blairism for good.

Ed saw his opening. Diane was becalmed. A treacherous but passable leftward route to the summit lay open. He struck out.

On August 27, New Labour got it’s first proper kicking. It had fallen, “into the same trap as old Labour, clinging to old truths that had served their time”. “The New Labour modernisers”, were  “the New Labour traditionalists” and “out of touch”.  The pressure was ratcheted up,  the attacks personalised. By 1 September it was time to “move on from the politicians of a previous generation”. By 10 September, it was all out war: “You know, New Labour was right for its time but we need to move on from New Labour, and all the attacks on me from the New Labour establishment have helped crystallise that message”.

The mood changed. The coronation was now a contest. Red Ed had Big Mo.

On Sunday, September 12, he had the lead. YouGov, placed him two points up. The MPs had rejected his message. But the ordinary members, and the unions, had swung behind him.

Victory was in his grasp. A political earthquake for the ages. And then…

There are three main reasons why David Miliband won. The first was Ed’s willingness so readily to trade electability for perceived ideological purity. The party’s loyalty has been sorely tested in the years since dawn broke over Festival Hall. But never again will we view power as an optional extra.

The second was David Miliband’s political courage. He was slow to respond to attempts to define him as Blair’s successor, and the sheer audacity of his brother’s turn left surprised him. But he never departed significantly from his core strategy, nor joined in  a scorched earth assault on the party’s past. Time will grant Gordon Brown the political rehabilitation he deserves. But the price we paid for unpopular and indecisive leadership will not be forgotten.

The third reason lies in the resilience and vision of the party itself. The defeat hit hard. We should have had time to regroup and lick our wounds before launching into a leadership contest. But, in the end, we saw beyond the impact on ourselves; our guilt, envy, hatred, love, fear, hope. We looked outward. And saw that the flags of the old guard could simply be lowered. There was no need to tear them down. The Blairite and Brownite camps were now deserted. Their few remaining followers dispersed. Change could be embraced. It did not need to be enforced.

This Saturday, David Miliband will be elected. It will not mean that we are on the path back to power. Nor that we have fully come to terms with our election defeat. But we will have a new leader. And the right one. For the moment, that is enough.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut

Tags: , ,

46 Responses to “David Miliband has won, says Dan Hodges.”

  1. David only wins if he can get past 50% without a count of second preferences. If we get to that stage, Ed wins, because no-one has David second.

  2. Siôn Simon says:

    @Duncan Hothersall

    i know and speak to a large and pretty good cross-section of Labour party members, and I know more people who put David second that any other candidate.

    Which doesn’t mean that i agree with Dan that he is bound to win. Or even that he’s necessarily got more second prefs than his brother (I accept that my sample, though relatively good, is only a snapshot).

    But it’s simply not true that nobody’s got him second.

  3. Sunder Katwala says:

    The piece strikes me as complete nonsense, and at times self-contradictory.

    Certainly, David M may well have won narrowly, or lost narrowly. It looks very close. You don’t say how you know that he has won.

    If he were to win, it wouldn’t make the narrative arc of this piece right – that the YouGov poll was right, and that there was a negative reaction afterwards to a significant shift in Ed M’s campaign narrative. There just isn’t any evidence for any of this. (If your argument was right, he’d have about 90% of everybody who voted after the YouGov poll. Do you think he has?)

    Among other things, the piece descends into self-parody when you write “It’s easy to forget now, but in the beginning Ed’s was a standard “change versus more of the same” mantra. The military beret, Cuban cigars and intoxicating revolutionary rhetoric were nowhere to be seen. In the speech that launched his campaign, New Labour didn’t even warrant a mention”.

    What is this Cuban cigars/revolutionary rhetoric tosh. Can you provide a single example of just one “revolutionary rhetoric” soundbite? The Economist has pointed out Ed M’s arguments are mild compared with Angela Merkel’s or Sarkozy’s.

    Two other problems with this

    It was David Miliband who had declared New Labour “dead” on May 18th in pitching “Next Labour”. Both brothers were saying most of what they said in late August and early Sept in the early hustings. The claim of a massive shift of focus doesn’t seem right at all. Ed M described socialism as being a critique of capitalism in the opening week hustings, while making it clear that was about a social democratic intervention

    And Ed M’s launch speech made precisely the same argument to the one you criticise as a lurch at the end of the campaign. Isn’t this – from his opening speech – the same argument?

    “When Labour succeeds it is through a politics always rooted in our a values and always rooted in the lives of the people of Britain. And the truth is that as government wore on we lost that sense of progressive mission and of being in touch with people’s concerns.
    Think about the things we are proudest of: the minimum wage, investment in healthcare, tax credits, Surestart. Almost all of those things were a result of decisions made in the very first years of our government. As time wore on we came to seem more caretakers than idealists—more technocratic than transformative. And when political parties lose that sense of idealism and mission they become much more vulnerable to the currents of events. For us, increasingly, because we lost that sense of progressive mission, we found ourselves beached, unable to speak to too many of the concerns of the people of our country”.

  4. Fair enough Siôn, you’re right that my statement was an exaggeration. We’ll just have to see how it pans out!

  5. @epictrader says:

    I hope you’re right Dan, I really do. Though, youu have to wonder given an electoral sytem that can allow a scenario where David Miliband has won the election and lost to the runner up, so to speak.

  6. Andy Howell says:

    According to many poles and pundits this is a race that is very close and open. I must admit though that’s not what I have found.Over recent weeks I’ve talked to many members in the West Midlands and in London and it is very difficult to find anyone who has not voted for David Milliband! (I mean ordinary members and not people known to be affiliated to one campaign or another).

  7. Matt says:

    “What is this Cuban cigars/revolutionary rhetoric tosh. Can you provide a single example of just one “revolutionary rhetoric” soundbite?”

    Great question Sunder. Would love to see a reply.

  8. Dan Hodges says:


    I think he’s won, for the reasons I outline. If you think I’m wrong by all means state who you think will win, and why.

    You’re right, the idea of Ed Miliband as a left wing firebrand is laughable. The problem is it’s definition that has come from Ed, his campaign and his supporters.

    If you’re arguing he is not the left’s candidate fine. But I think you should let Derek Simpson, Tony Woodley and Seamus Milne in on the secret.

    If you think David is the candidate most aggressively arguing for a move beyond the Blair years, again fine. But again, that’s not what EM and his camp have been saying.

    If you don’t think EM has been more vociferous in his attacks on New Labour then just read the quotes. And point to the section of his announcement where he used the phrase New Labour. Once. in any context.


  9. This article is just dreadful propaganda.

    May I remind you that the Labour was not unified last time, and this led to the electorate rejecting us?

    What on earth is this press release for one candidate doing here?

    All the candidates deserve our support fairly.

    Dr Shibley Rahman

  10. Mike Smithson says:

    Your prediction reminds me of that famous Daily Telegraph piece published only nine minutes before Harriet Harman became deputy in June 2007.


  11. Tony Benn says:

    What arrogant tosh !!

    It seems you have your knickers in a twist because on Saturday,Ed Miliband will be elected as Leader

  12. Survation says:

    Great to know how you feel about the campaign Dan, but a rather misleading title don’t you think? If Dave “has” won perhaps you might furnish us with some evidence that that is the case?

    Presumably you’re aware of some canvass returns?

  13. Dan Hodges says:


    I prefer Dewey Defeats Truman myself.


  14. Dan Hodges says:


    Nope. Just expressing an opinion. Very bored with ‘on the one hand/on the other hand’ predictions.


  15. Survation says:

    Come on Dan, this article just reads like you’re trying to press-gang a few fence-sitting MPs into supporting the “winner” even though we all know this is a tight fight for victory.

    Perhaps you could answer the question – If Dave “has” won perhaps you might furnish us with some evidence that that is the case?

  16. Dan Hodges says:


    Little late in the day for press ganging isn’t it?


  17. Teresa Pearce says:


    If the people who have put David 2nd put Ed M 1st then those 2nd prefs wont come into play as it looks clear that the brothers will be last two standing. T

  18. Tristan Cox says:


    I’m not sure what this article pangs of more; desperation or arrogance.

    Everyone I’ve met who has campaigned in this election – regardless of the candidate that they endorse – has attempted to keep things as fair and as courteous as possible.

    Your declarmatory, uninformed analysis; based on little else other than conjecture, has left me hoping you will come to regret this article.

    To paraphrase Kevin Keegan, I would LOVE it if Ed won.

  19. Isla Dowds says:

    Poor logic, sloppy writing, hyperbole ad nauseam, very bad timing, and, actually, just a really ‘off’ article. Is this the best you can do?

  20. Dan Hodges says:


    Yes, I’m afraid it is. sorry.


  21. Emma Burnell says:

    Then the question becomes: is this the best that “Labour Uncut can publish?

  22. Marcus Roberts says:

    I’m rooting for Ed M (and think he’ll win) but have no problem reading the arguments as to why I’m wrong and David is on course for victory. In fact that’s what I was really hoping to read when I saw the headline as electoral analysis is a geeky passion of mine. But where were the facts and figures? Where was the added value? I’m sure there’s a decent electoral college case to be made for David, I just haven’t seen it anywhere of late. In it’s absence the article’s reach exceeds it’s grasp.

    Perhaps another piece laying out the strengths of the DM campaign (and then another piece on EM) based on field, fundraising, endorsements, media coverage, candidate activity and, above all, electoral college strength would help move the debate away from the polemical and towards the useful.

  23. Alex Ross says:

    In fairness, I read Dan’s articles with an understand he uses more than a dollop of humour in how he writes – the Cuba references I took in that vein, though I admit I thought there’d be some statistical analysis of why David has ‘won’.

    That said, people should read John Rentoul/Steve Richards – there’s an anecdote Richards’ mentions in his new book, where Ed Miliband makes a speech saying that the financial crisis had proven his dad – a marxist – right. Richards afterwards asked if it was a joke, Ed replied that he was being deadly serious.

    I don’t think Ed is ‘Red Ed’ by any means, but that was the first time I thought he was actually more left-wing that I was giving him credit though (ignoring the support of the unions and so on.).

  24. Trish says:

    Come on people. Stop being so silly.

    This is an interesting piece. It makes a change from all the “will it be david/will it be ed” rubbish that has filled the papers for weeks.

    The reaction it is getting proves that it is interesting. I for one enjoy Dan’s weekly missive.

    It is tongue in cheek, daring, interesting, well written and gives me something to talk about at lunch. What more do you want.

  25. George Silver says:

    good example of socialist voting there … announce who wins before the votes are counted. just a shame you couldnt get away with that during the general election (although it did appear some brothers and sisters tried)

  26. ANiN says:

    “can you see him physically standing on the threshold of Downing Street, delivering bland statements about “doing not talking” while clinging, limpet-like, to his stoic wife”

    Yes I can he looks, talks and walks like the Neo Liberal he is.

    I recall Daves support for Blair bloodbath in Iraq, NHS Privatisation,Detention without trial,Rendition,Torture and Anti Union Laws

    Daves Little more than a mouthpiece for the Hedge Funds,Bankers and Privatisers like the rest of the gutless Labour Party.

    Labour, the Party of Murdoch,Bankers, Privatisation and War

  27. Terry Powell says:

    Where is the doing the best for country mentioned rather than for the Labour Party by any of the five and why no ‘sorry’ for the 13 wasted years of £billions spent for nothing!

  28. Sunder Katwala says:


    – Well at least give us your electoral college breakdowns for the final round then? I’d be happy to do the same (once the polls have closed!!) though with rather less certainty than you have.

    – On did he say New Labour, well I think the message more important than the phrase. But in fact, as he did mention “new Labour” specifically in calling for as big a post-defeat rethink now as the party underwent as New Labour.

    On Saturday May 15th, the day of his launch speech and in a piece extracted on from it, Ed M said the government had lost its way and the party needed as big a rethink as new Labour had gone for in 1994. He said it was necessary to move on from Blairites and Brownites. [David Miliband said similar things the same week .. and I am still short of a single piece of revolutionary rhetoric]

    “Now is the time to make use of the only advantage, frankly, that we get in opposition: the chance to have the far-reaching debate that we did not have in government. I am convinced that if we ask the hard questions as new Labour did in 1994 and the Conservative party did not do after 2005, then we can make sure this is a one-term government. I will always defend the record of our government because we made this country more prosperous, fairer, greener, more democratic, and we should all be proud of what we achieved. But there is deep thinking we need to do about what went wrong.

    Let’s move on from the politics of Blairites and Brownites and unite around a new set of ideas”.

  29. Sunder Katwala says:

    ” And point to the section of his announcement where he used the phrase New Labour. Once. in any context”.

    here’s the link to quote in last passage

    • This is an edited version, published by permission, of the speech given by Ed Miliband at the Fabian Society conference on Saturday 15 May

  30. Isla Dowds says:

    and then childish responses – I’m with Emma – Labour Uncut can do better..

  31. mike griffiths says:

    What ever the result and no one yet knows yet, the analysis of the candidates campaign pitch seems to me to be spot on. Lets see now how it plays out

  32. Tom Miller says:

    Well written, but only half argued, and on the key point itself to boot.

  33. Jamie Milne says:

    Not wishing to sound like a toady; but I thought the article was rather good.

    The only thing I’d take issue with is the prediction that if David wins then New Labour is dead. I think, and hope, that is wrong. New Labour, as I understand it, is an belief that while our values remain, we must never again be stubbornly bound to policies that don’t chime with the public. If that approach is jettisoned we will suffer for it. If you mean merely that the phrase will die, then I think that’s surely right.

  34. Dan Hodges says:


    I think DM will will a small majority amongst the MPs, a significant majority amongst the constituencies, (larger than most people are currently predicting), and will lose on the affiliates, but by a much smaller margin than people are predicting.

    Don’t be a tease. Come on. Give us your prediction. I wont tell.


  35. LizK says:

    Diane Abbott for me!

  36. Sunder Katwala says:

    Before we had the second YouGov poll, I said (when asked) that the (scant) information we had suggested it was very close to a 50-50 race, on the hunch that EM would be as far up among affiliates as he was down among MPs. I thought the media coverage tended to overlook the 1st poll having members at 50-50 in the final round, so that DM won on MPs + unions.

    I would now narrowly shade victory chances to EM over DM (though only by say 52-48).

    I now guess 10 points will probably be the outside of what DM can achieve with MPs in final round (and the YouGov projection there was 12 points, 56-44). My central estimate 54-46 to DM, though could be 51-49.

    I would take EM to win affiliates, perhaps 44-56 or thereabouts. (Similarly, I think DM would aim to stay within 8 points here, rather than 10+). I predict 25% turnout, which probably helps DM a bit.

    So I have it at 51-49 going into the final third. It is to be hoped it all goes on what party members want, My guess would be 49-51 to EM (if first preference gap is just under 5 points to DM over EM) partly because I suspect the 20% of new members will tilt it. I suspect 80% turnout here.

    That would give it 51-49 to EM overall, so clearly, all of that leaves it well within DM’s grasp too, and if he wins the members he could be there.

    And I hope the other sections either leave it level enough so that winning the members by 1% (or indeed 0.1%) does win it, or that the winner wins the members by a lot more, whoever it is.

    My view is that it is certainly possible to instead make DM still a favourite (if he won the last six four to weeks with party members, rather than because he was ahead six weeks ago).

    The pro-DM factors are that I think second prefs may not transfer at the pro-EM rate they did in the second poll, that he could be helped a little by Abbott (1) voters who don’t express further preferences, if say 10% of her vote does that. The electability polling should have been useful to his campaign.

    I think the fact that 20% of party members are new will help EM a fair bit (and I expect they will turnout at a somewhat higher rate). At the margin, the timing of the Mandelson/Blair books and their would-be helpful interventions certainly wasn’t welcomed by DM and probably hurt him with some undecided members and trade unions (and though some MPs and members may have been more persuaded than put off, that will have resonated with people who were onside for DM, while having a negative effect on eg whether some Abbott voters did have a Miliband preference).

  37. Sunder Katwala says:

    I meant MPs could be 55-45 (not could be 51-49).

  38. Ian Willmore says:

    Dan Hodges: New Labour Psychic. The Carol Caplin of the David Miliband Campaign.

  39. Dan Hodges says:


    You’re right.

    And I wrote this response at 9.00 am this morning.


  40. Matthew Stiles says:

    “The military beret, Cuban cigars and intoxicating revolutionary rhetoric were nowhere to be seen.” becomes “You’re right, the idea of Ed Miliband as a left wing firebrand is laughable. The problem is it’s definition that has come from Ed, his campaign and his supporters. If you’re arguing he is not the left’s candidate fine. But I think you should let Derek Simpson, Tony Woodley and Seamus Milne in on the secret.”

    So let’s see the “revolutionary rhetoric” of those three:
    “He understands the Labour Party needs to change and he is the best candidate to reconnect Labour with the concerns of ordinary working people,” Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, Unite’s joint general secretaries, say in the leaflet. Wow, worthy of El Che at his most fiery.
    And Seamus Milne:
    “The older brother is the continuity candidate – when Labour badly needs to change.
    By contrast, his brother has at least begun to absorb the lessons of New Labour’s failure and rejected its triangulation…..Most important, the former energy secretary has recognised that most of the votes Labour lost were working class – and of the middle-class defectors, the majority went to the Liberal Democrats.
    It is only by addressing that failure of representation and rebuilding an electoral coalition of working class and middle class voters that Labour will return to power. But in response to even these cautious common sense shifts, Ed Miliband has absurdly been accused of “Bennism” and retreating to Labour’s “comfort zone” by Tory pundits and Blairite opponents. But as the younger Miliband argues, “remaining in the New Labour comfort zone would consign us to opposition”. “

  41. Dan Hodges says:


    Chill. comrade.

    It’s over.

    We’ll pick this up on Sunday.


  42. Jay says:

    I agree with you on Abbott. It amazes me that anyone can support the odious woman; her constant jibes at the other candidates and shouting and stabbing her chubby little fingers turned the whole contest into a circus designed to boost her media career and bank balance. How could anyone imagine her on the world stage?

  43. JaneZ says:

    This is why maybe labour should not get into power or rethink it’s methods.
    Labour seems so bureaucratic and complicated when they do things.
    The electoral college sounds complicated and therefore probably expensive.
    How can one person cast more than one vote just because they have more than one affiliation. This does not seem fair to me. Everyone should have a unique reference number and enter their date of birth on line and vote for their leader.

    When we have a general elecrion: there should be a simple form; personal details; district and voting choice. It should all be done on line or on a big screen and the results automatically upated as people vote.

    I am starting to believe in the tories now.I may just give up on politics altogether. The whole system is time wasting and expensive and not environmentally friendly.

  44. Ian Willmore says:

    Oops. Hodges to the naughty step!

  45. Gerard Killoran says:

    How happy I am to find out you’re wrong!

  46. Dan Hodges says:

    Yes, Ian and Gerard, congratulations.

    I got that one very wrong.

    Well done to your man.

Leave a Reply