We used to feel just a tiny bit sorry for Ed Miliband. OK, he was a Cabinet Minister, had a barrister “partner” (Justine is an environmental lawyer), an Oxford education and all the other “bolt-ons” that the majority of 40 year-olds can only dream of. So why did we not envy him ? His career was mapped out for him, he was comparatively well-off and yet there was a “niggle”. That niggle or career speed-bump has now been removed and is somewhere in North London licking his wounds. Big Brother, David.
Ed certainly does not possess his brother’s intellect, brooding D’Arcyesque presence or sharp suits. In fact, compared to David, he is more of Wallace (Wallace & Grommit) with a silly haircut and the sort of annoying voice which begs a prompt visit to an ENT man.
Luckily for him, as usual, the Labour Party has managed to allow the potential runner up to shine and then try and convince itself that this was the right decision. Michael Foot defeated Denis Healey, Neil Kinnock defeated Roy Hattersley, Gordon Brown defeated himself and once again the potential silver medalist has won the Gold.
However, on this occasion, it would seem that more by luck than judgement and a combination of disaffected unions and the Party’s irrational addiction to high drama, Labour has elected the right man for the job.
So what was the path that ultimately led to the collision in Manchester? The collision that some commentators have been reporting as cunningly premeditated fratricide.
The paths that the Miliband brothers took were practically identical. The same influences, the same education and the same career path. That is why the Labour Party’s decision was almost too close to call.
The boys are a reasonably common post-war product. In 1940, their father, Ralph (nee Adolphe) managed to scramble aboard the last boat from Belgium to England. He and the Milbands’ grandfather Samuel settled in London. Ralph had been born in Belgium although the family was Polish-Jewish.
In 1961, Ralph married a Polish girl called Marion Kozak. She was one of Ralph’s former students at LSE where he taught Political Science. David was born in 1965 and Ed in 1969.
The two boys were totally immersed in Socialism – their father was not-only one of the most influential socialist thinkers of his day but the house always buzzed to the sound of socialist discourse and debate. For instance, one of the regular visitors to the Miliband household used to be Tony Benn and it is rumoured that he used to help the boys with their homework. From a very early age, the Miliband sons were encouraged to discuss and argue politics with the constant stream of left-wing intellectuals who’d pitch up to their London home on a daily basis.
It is said that in spite of their socialist home influences, what really shaped their views was their time at Haverstock school. The young Milibands saw that this comprehensive school (in which over 60 languages were spoken), created a background-driven disparity in pupil performance. Both brothers perceived the inverse link between social class and educational performance. The recognised that children who were far more intellectually able than they were, did not always perform to their potential. Those children did not have the benefit of their warm, intellectual middle-class existence.
To put it simply, poor children did not perform as well as well-off children. That is now accepted as a self-evident truth.
The experience fused the brothers’ political views. Not for the first time, ideology had shaken hands with harsh reality.
In spite of below-par A-level results, David went up to Oxford where he read PPE at Corpus Christi. Unsurprisingly, Ed followed a couple of years later. Same University, same college, same subject.
Their times at Oxford were similar, except that Ed is remembered as having been the more militant and has said on a number of occasions that politics motivated him more than academia.
There is a simple way to describe the difference between the Miliband brothers using the Merrill-Reid Social Styles model. Ed is more of an “expressive” while David is the “analytical”. The “doer” versus the “thinker”.
Ed deals in emotions whilst David prefers facts.
For instance, this week you may have noticed that there has never been any question of Harriet Harman NOT continuing as Deputy Leader. One of the reasons for that is the very strong emotional bond between Harriet and Ed. His first political job was as Harriet’s researcher.
One suspects however, that had David won the leadership election, he would have been more concerned with candidates’ previous form rather than be driven by sentimentalism.
After university, Ed worked as speechwriter and researcher for Harriet Harman and for Gordon Brown, then the Shadow Chancellor. He followed Brown to the Treasury as one of the “two Eds” (the other is Ed Balls) who steered the Chancellor and the Treasury through the ten Blair years. Ed has the very great political advantage of having been very close to the economic shenanigans of the last fifteen years.
There are those who cannot understand why the Unions gave Ed the ticket to the leadership. David Miliband is still perceived as a Blairite – after all, he used to be Tony Blair’s Head of Policy. The Unions have long memories and they DO hold a grudge.
Both brothers were in the thick of the Blair/Brown feud but it was Ed who became the non-elected nuncio who was the buffer between the two camps. He was dubbed (rather eloquently) as “the ambassador from Planet Fuck” – primarily because he was the only member of the Brown team who did not tell the Blairites to “Fuck off”.
So, the two brothers were gradually being squeezed apart by the Blair/Brown in-fighting and in spite of the fact that it has become transparently obvious that Brown’s tenure at No 10 was a disaster and that Brown was arguably the worst leader since John Major, Ed Miliband does not appear to have been tainted by his closeness to Brown and he achieved that by his comparative anonymity.
There is little doubt that Ed Miliband is regarded as the warmer of the two brothers and his natural ability to “connect” makes him a very popular speaker. He should not be judged solely on his 2010 conference speech!
His leadership potential is there but still largely untested. He has not had David’s experience of comfortably striding the world stage as Foreign Secretary but by all accounts, he is a fast learner and what he may lack in natural physical grace, he compensates for in political guile and a profound doggedness.
Had David remained as part of Ed’s shadow team, there would always have been a real danger of the soap opera that was the Blair/Brown feud having been reprised with a younger (Miliband) cast. The Tories were looking forward to David being elected as leader because there was little doubt that Ed would have been part of David’s shadow team. That would have created two distinct camps within the party which would have suited the Conservatives very well. There is nothing as agreeable as watching your enemies (once again) publicly digest themselves from the inside.
The election of Ed Miliband has averted a potential disaster for the Labour Party.
Many predicted that the Milibands would work as a team and rebuild the car-crash that is the current Labour Party but on reflection it seems that the right Miliband is in charge.
In the leadership game, charisma always wins over intellect.