Thursday News Review

What will Ed be?

The Conservatives, as they gather for their conference in Birmingham, would do well not to underestimate Ed Miliband. He is shrewdly claiming that there is a generational difference between himself and David Cameron. That is fertile territory. Indeed, he contrasted his optimism with Mr Cameron’s pessimism. Of late, because of personal circumstances, Mr Cameron has been rather distant from the fray, as if he were somehow above the vulgarities of the daily grind of politics. The challenge now for him, as he returns to battle, is to show that he is the new-style compassionate Conservative he claims to be. However he positions himself, he has in Ed Miliband a dangerous, charismatic and ruthless opponent. He was the high-risk choice for Labour. The party will be hoping that, in time, he will bring it high rewards. – The New Statesman

Yet there is a catch: those who have known Mr Miliband for a while speak of his empathy, his easy-going nature and his openness to others. Conservative friends admit that he is “human” and “thoughtful”. When he worked at the Treasury, he was always the one willing to consider points of view that did not fit with the orthodoxy as determined by Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. He was Nice Ed. Even Tony Blair was polite about him in his memoirs. As I followed him around the Labour conference this week, the new leader’s humour never slipped; there was none of the surliness of Gordon Brown or the snooty froideurthat his brother tended to show in unguarded moments. Indeed, it was precisely because Ed was the nice one that his decision to stand against his brother, run a thuggish campaign against him, and then disown him from the stage over Iraq took so many aback. This darker, more cut-throat side of his personality had never been obvious before, even if his willingness to be a party to the brutality of the Brown operation was a clue. – The Telegraph

Ed Miliband showed a streak of ruthlessness when he sacked the veteran Brownite Nick Brown as chief whip, but the organisation around the new leader is barely embryonic, and David Miliband’s departure has created a potentially dangerous moment. That can only be confronted by reinforcing the message of change that was the theme of his campaign. One obvious way to do that would be to give the shadow chancellor brief to Ed Balls, who has shifted the national economic debate by hammering home the threat to the economy from slash-and-burn austerity, ahead of the coalition cuts bonanza due to be unveiled next month. The importance of consolidating Labour’s new course should be clear enough. For all Ed Miliband’s studied caution and moderation, his election marks an unmistakable breach in the stifling neoliberal consensus that has dominated British politics since the early 1990s. – The Guardian

The Blairites should calm down. If David had won, he would have tacked to the left, reassuring voters he wasn’t a Blair clone. Now Ed has won, his conference speech suggests he will tack to the right, countering the charge that, to use the media’s curiously archaic language, he is a “red” in thrall to “union barons”. How can the Blairites spurn a man who has already mastered the art of sonorous sentences denuded of verbs and meaning, as in “Real help matched with real responsibility”? I wouldn’t be surprised if Ed’s leadership turns out fractionally to the right of where David’s would have been. Perhaps, as a fervent old Labourite, I should have voted for Miliband D, after all. – The New Statesman

Backbench brother

David Miliband’s retirement to the backbenches is an undeniable loss to the Labour team. Clever, courageous and confrontational, he is a politician feared by both the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat lackeys. Yet losing the leadership election to his younger brother appears to be a blow he may take time to come to terms with. As Labour leader Ed Miliband will be given more space to shape his shadow cabinet without the presence of David who, it is true, could overshadow him. – The Mirror

DAVID Miliband will be glad when this week is over. Not only did he lose the Labour leadership election to his brother, Ed, but he has had to step back from frontline politics. There is little doubt that his decision to retreat to the back benches of the House of Commons was the only sensible one to take if his brother was to be given any chance of making his tenure at the top a success. Were the elder sibling to have remained in the shadow Cabinet, his every utterance would have been subject to intense media examination for signs of disloyalty or rebellion. The ferocity of the scrutiny would have made the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown relationship seem like nothing more than a harmless tiff. – The Press and Journal

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