When the plan falls apart, by Rob Carr

When I was a kid, the big show on TV was the A-Team. In breaks and after school, my friends and I used to be the A-Team. This mainly involved acting out invented episodes whilst running around back lanes or climbing trees down the local park.

There were four main characters of which (in the eyes of an eight-year-old) only two were cool. They were John ‘Hannibal’ Smith and Templeton ‘Face’ Peck.

This of course caused difficulties. Among six or seven of us, only two could be the cool characters, two others had to be the boring characters, and the rest were the ‘baddies’. This should have led to squabbles, arguments, sulks and tantrums, but as a rule it didn’t. Eight year old minds are creative and open and we usually managed to rotate the roles in a democratic fashion before killing each other by the climbing frame.

Except for one kid. There’s always one kid isn’t there? In the case of my childhood, it was a kid I shall call Paul. Mainly because that was his name. Paul was a pain in the arse. He insisted on being Hannibal. If he couldn’t be Hannibal, he would refuse to play. And, worse, he’d generally end up sabotaging our game as we played around him.

So, more often than not, Paul got to be Hannibal. In primary school this was fine. We just accepted it and got on happily with our days. By the time we got to secondary school, we’d moved on from childish games and played British bulldog or football instead. We matured and grew.

Except for one kid. There’s always one kid. And it was still Paul. By the time we were 12, he wouldn’t play football with us unless he got to be captain. He had to be the one picking the team or he wouldn’t play. And, worse, he’d generally end up interrupting and spoiling our jumpers-for-goalposts games. As 12 year-olds, we usually let him pick a team just to keep the peace. It became the norm. It was just expected that Paul would be one of the ones leading the teams. In year 8 that was fine, but by year 10 we’d moved on and matured and grown. We’d tired of Paul and left him behind. Come year 11, and Paul* was friendless and our games of football much less hassle.

I worry that David Miliband is becoming Paul. He has wanted to be the leader of the Labour Party for a long time. He was Tony Blair’s protegé, the heir apparent after Gordon Brown, and the focal point of the plots against the previous leader. He stood for leader immediately and fought a hard campaign, only to find on Saturday that he’d been beaten to the leadership. And not only beaten, but beaten by his little brother.

That’s bound to hurt. Especially if you had never considered any other option. But to turn around and say “if I can’t be Hannibal, then I don’t want to play at all” doesn’t sit well with me. And that’s exactly how it looks. How dedicated to the Labour movement can David Miliband be if he’s not willing to stand for shadow cabinet and use his talents in the service of the party he says he loves so much? Did he really not consider when he entered a contest of five equals that he might not be first among them? Did he never think through the possibility that he wouldn’t win?

This is not an attack on David. Although I supported Ed Miliband from the outset, I wouldn’t have been devastated if it had been Miliband Senior who had won. He is a huge talent for the party and I’d like to have seen him the shadow cabinet taking the fight to the government. He was obviously annoyed at Ed’s comments on Iraq in the leader’s speech. In his email to supporters yesterday, he said that he wishes to focus on continuing the work on training community leaders that he began during his election campaign.

I understand the quandary he was in. By staying in the front line he would support his brother as he has asked others to do. He would prevent a visible rift in the Miliband family. And he would follow through on all his campaign rhetoric of fighting the government.

By leaving, he may make it harder for the media to keep the sibling rivalry alive. He may stop the Blair-Brown axis turning into the Ed-Dave axis. I’d prefer to see him leading from the front line and using his experience to fight the government alliance and defend the people in this country who have no voice. But do I want him to stay around if he thinks so little of the party that he only wants to play if he can be Hannibal?

Paul doesn’t show up to reunions. He lives on his own above a fish shop in Whitley Bay and works in a call centre. We do see a lot of his younger brother Ben, though. He’s the life and soul of the party.

Rob Carr blogs at A Novocastrian Abroad

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5 Responses to “When the plan falls apart, by Rob Carr”

  1. Darren Canning says:

    For not being a personal attack this is pretty barbed and here’s hoping Paul isn’t reading this he probably doesn’t need the gloating.

  2. This is the harsh interpretation. An equally plausible but less harsh interpretation is that David is telling the truth when he says he’s doing it to shut the media up.

    The amount of venom and moronic attempts at psychoanalysis flying around in the papers is immense. Simon Carr suggested that Ed referring to his son in his speech was an attack on David because his kids are adopted. It’s that level of spittle-flecked insanity we’re dealing with.

    In that context, it does makes sense for David to take cover on the backbenches for a couple of years, do some constituent work, become a voice for a cause that doesn’t get enough attention.

    It’s only if he refuses to come in in two years time when Ed is more securely established as party leader that it’s a problem.

  3. Ellen says:

    I never realized that serving on the backbenches in the House of Commons was the political equivalent of being sent to Siberia with a death sentence. Seriously, David Miliband will be serving the Labour Party in a different capacity. Nobody knows or understands the relationship between David and Ed at the moment except for David and Ed. I don’t think it is fair to judge David harshly. He was damned if he decided to stay in the shadow cabinet and damned when he decided against it. I believe he is simply doing what is best for his brother and what is best for the Labour Party at the moment. I don’t think this psycho-drama would have occured if Ed Balls or Andy Burnham had won, but the media made the race into a two-horse race between two brothers and now the Labour Party has to live with the consequences.

  4. Alex_N says:

    Puzzled by the idea of writing this article and equally puzzled by its inclusion on Labour Uncut. If David does something to undermine Ed’s leadership or it remains an issue then let’s discuss it. For the vast majority of Labour members the issue is closed. Most of us have more productive, campaigning things to think about.

  5. doreen ogden says:

    Totally agree with all the above comments ! Who needs the condems to find fault with – who I think is a honourable man – when one of our own can do it so well ?

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