Ed Miliband wins UK Labour Party leadership contest
September 25, 2010 2:50 PM   Subscribe

In a victory unexpected until the last 24 hours of the race, Ed Miliband has beaten older brother David to win the leadership of the (UK) Labour Party.

At the final count Ed was only a whisker ahead of his brother, thanks to the redistribution of second-choice votes for other candidates and support from the unions.

Ed, a former climate change secretary, has been claimed to have stronger green credentials, is further to the left of his brother, no fan of the New Labour project, and thought to be a shrewd political operator.

It’s just four months since Labour shook off the sour end of the last two-man struggle for power at the top of the party, and since long before Ed announced he was to stand, there has been speculation about what the battle for power would do to the brothers’ relationship.

Also, their mother is finding it all a bit much.
posted by penguin pie (29 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm delighted David Milliband didn't win. That arch-Blairite was up to his eyeballs in the whole Iraq thing.
posted by idiomatika at 2:56 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hurrah, my man won. I'm happy. He's not as flashy as David, but is good on green issues, maintaining the welfare state, and civil liberties. Hurrah and huzzah.
posted by jaduncan at 3:19 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

A better day for some political Davids than others.
posted by atrazine at 3:30 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's pretty standard for a defeated party to lurch back towards it's core isn't it? So that means Ed had to win. The Labour party will turn it's back on the centreground, where elections are won... At least for a while. It will be interesting to see whether he's a reformer or a caretaker. It will be more interesting to see if the coalition parties can make gains against the son of a Marxist lecturer...
posted by Hugh Routley at 3:34 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Labour bled from both the centre and from the left at the last election - but maybe more from the left. This will be interesting times, I saw a comment to the effect that Labour had skipped their William Hague and gone straight to Ian Duncan-Smith. That might be a bit bleak, I suppose. Ed would be well advised to get extremely green, I think: left and green from a mainstream party actually hasn't been tried in Britain yet; each alone is a nonstarter I think.
posted by Rumple at 3:43 PM on September 25, 2010

Excellent, I've always said what the UK needs is an youthful Oxford educated career politician who after a brief, pointless career in media, some policy wonkery and limited parliamentary experience, is thrust then into a really senior position much to the derision of the current establishment within their party.
posted by Damienmce at 3:48 PM on September 25, 2010 [14 favorites]

That'd make Thanksgiving awkward, good thing they're British.
posted by Jahaza at 3:51 PM on September 25, 2010

I just feel sorry for Steve. Still, he's always got the band to fall back on.
posted by permafrost at 3:52 PM on September 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

God damn, I knew I should have put money on him when he was 7/1.
posted by Edwahd at 3:59 PM on September 25, 2010

For anyone in the UK, I can recommend the mockumentary Milliband of Brothers, which is on 4OD and will also be on some Freeview channels in the next few days.
posted by Jakey at 4:31 PM on September 25, 2010

The better of the Milibands. A considerable relief, he offers some hope of Labour actually differentiating itself from the two-headed neoliberal monster presently in power.
posted by WPW at 4:45 PM on September 25, 2010

This article may interest people interested in this. A look at how the brothers do/don't grapple with the issues raised by their father in his 50s and 60s essays on socialism.
posted by Slyfen at 8:14 PM on September 25, 2010

Least worst choice wins. Surely this will be the first step on the parliamentary road to socialism, proving his dad wrong!
Well seen that the 'backing from the unions' theme is getting full play, when actually it was backing from the votes of individual union members, probably a broader cross-section of the British public than any other body likely to be voting on party leaders. Given the way weighting in the Labour electoral college works apparently Ed Milliband actually had a nine percent lead of individual votes cast, so not such a close run thing in those terms.
posted by Abiezer at 8:24 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, saw this somewhat amusing picture caption elsewhere.
posted by Abiezer at 8:27 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ah I was really hoping for Ed Balls, just because I wanted to read the headlines.
posted by Webbster at 9:10 PM on September 25, 2010

The guy has been an MP for a whole 5 fucking years. Doesn't this fill anyone with dread? I fucking hate professional politicians.

The leader of each of the main UK parties is nothing more than a political wonk.

I weep.
posted by littleredspiders at 11:51 PM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

He won't win the next election (nor would the other Ed, or the other Milliband; it wasn't a good field) - that'll be the Tories (if their economic plans work out OK) or another coalition.

Personally I think they should have kept Harriet Harman on for a couple of years and allowed some new personalities and some new politics to emerge before selecting someone to take them into the next election. There are currently no good candidates untainted by the legacy of the past 12-13 years.
posted by dickasso at 1:27 AM on September 26, 2010

--The leader of each of the main UK parties is nothing more than a political wonk--

In my most sincere voice: so what do you want them to be and what makes being a political wonk such a bad thing?? I have no hard opinion on this, or at least, if political nous makes that pollie more capable of persuading people and and getting legislation passed, isn't a professional political background therefore a good thing (if they're passing laws you agree with, say) ??
posted by peacay at 1:32 AM on September 26, 2010

He won't win the next election...
In with a good chance I reckon - Labour has caught up with the Tories in the polls (slight slip back these past couple of days but overall momentum still there) even before the latter's ideologically-driven and unnecessary cuts start to bite - they're not actually sensible economic plans to address the crisis as even free-market fundamentalists like the IMF and Martin Wolf of the FT have told us. That's a very short honeymoon period for a new administration.
And pace the commenter up above, Miliband is of the centre ground - that doesn't hate the entire notion of state-run services or want to privatise anything that's not nailed down. The whole reason we got a hung parliament in the first place was the (well-founded) fear of what the Tories and Tory-lite Lib Dems were going to do being enough to galvanise voters to back a Labour Party they were largely heartily sick of. Hence Miliband doesn't have to be much more than not entirely incompetent and make even a half-hearted case against cuts-for-cuts'-sake to win back the disenchanted and see Cameron and Clegg out on their arses sooner rather than later.
posted by Abiezer at 1:57 AM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

And yet I still won't vote for a party of unapologetic war criminals.
posted by Decani at 2:36 AM on September 26, 2010 [4 favorites]

The guy has been an MP for a whole 5 fucking years. Doesn't this fill anyone with dread? I fucking hate professional politicians. The leader of each of the main UK parties is nothing more than a political wonk.

You fucking hate politicians who have been MPs for only 22% of their adult lives? You want him to have been there longer - to be more of a professional politician? Or less of a professional politician - to have only just entered parliament?

From a Times profile a couple of years ago: "His decision to follow his brother into the House of Commons was hard. Wary of always being in David's shadow, he was uncertain whether to seek a similar frontline role." Yep, ruthless ambition to enter Number 10 since he could talk, by the sound of it.

This "they're just political wonks" complaint is so boring. The leader of CERN is just a physics wonk. The leader of Microsoft is just a computer wonk. The fact is that it takes a certain number of years to get to the top in most professional fields, a certain amount of experience in that field. You don't get to be leader of a political party by being hailed as the world's greatest plumber and everyday bloke and spirited into the post.

It used to be that you could accrue that experience gradually, alongside another career, or gain it after a mid-life career change, and become a party leader later in life, with all the worldliness that years as a plumber supposedly brings. But voters have indicated lately that they don't like old leaders when they're up against younger models: Ming Campbell, Michael Howard, John Major, Gordon Brown, Bob Dole, John McCain, George Bush senior. So there's pressure within parties to find the younger models, pushing their age down to the minimum possible while still possessing the necessary political experience and capital.

That minimum age seems to be about 40. Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are all about 40. They've had time to build enough experience in related fields and just enough political and parliamentary experience to qualify. But they haven't had enough time to also become captains of industry or professional footballers or hairdressers running their own salons or whatever else it is that people might want of them.

I heard someone on Radio 4 the other day comparing politicians with "real people", and the poisonous nature of the phrase suddenly struck me. Politicians are real people, with experience of eating and sleeping and loving and hating and working and dreaming and all of the hopes and disappointments of being human. They're unusually busy people, and in many ways their lives aren't ordinary, but if we're going to condemn people for the effect their work has on their lives then we should snark at every office worker who moans about the long hours they have to put in and every labourer who complains about their aching back.

But that aside: tell us who you would want as leader instead. Not just of the Labour party, but of any of the major parties. Nominate any currently living UK citizen, if you like, right down to your best mate. Then map out the steps they would need to get there. Then estimate how long it would take them to achieve them. Then estimate how old they'll be when they get there. And then estimate what their chances will be of getting elected prime minister against a fresh-faced young leader in their early 40s who represents Fresh Hope for Britain.
posted by rory at 4:24 AM on September 26, 2010 [10 favorites]

You make some decent points rory but I ultimately agree with littleredspiders - the new style of politico is less 'real' insofar as they follow this similar track along a closed path that does make them a class apart.
While I won't pretend there was ever a golden era of the British political classes (better a wonk than a shires buffoon) there was that period in the late inter- and immediate post-war years where a broader spectrum of people did begin to enter parliament, often after many years of community or union activism (a perfectly reasonable set of steps to get there by and ones that bring a very different set of insights to the job) and more organically linked to the people they represented. That does count for something in the democratic process I think - you can always hire the wonks to be your civil servants; I still naively prefer the notion of parliamentarian as the people's tribune rather than a particular sub-set of the managerial classes.
It's the same political class that has regular bouts of hand-wringing about the lack of civic engagement - you reckon people showed a preference for the new young and shiny types and then the old guard faded away. I'm not so sure; I think at least as much the new set emerged within the party machines, captured key posts and then contributed to the disengagement, and it might be a return to the (admittedly idealised) older style that actually would bring back wider participation in the democratic process.
posted by Abiezer at 5:16 AM on September 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Abiezer, I'm not talking about politicians in general, I'm talking about leaders of parties and of governments. I don't think the old guard have "faded away". I think parties led by markedly older candidates have been having a hard time defeating parties led by markedly younger ones for at least twenty years. Party members aren't stupid: they want to maximize their chances of winning. In the current climate, it appears they can't if their leaders seem old and tired.

I'm about the same age as Cameron, Clegg and the Miliband brothers, and at this point am confident that I'd be unlikely to become leader of a major party, let alone prime minister, even if I had the political will to start down that road and the political appeal to get there. This push to the minimum age isn't going to disappear overnight. One day voters might swing back to older leaders, but that shift could take decades. That doesn't mean it's impossible for someone starting out at my age or older to become an MP or minister, though, and you can certainly achieve a lot in politics without being party leader or prime minister.

My problem with littleredspiders' comment was that it makes impossible demands of leadership contenders who are about 40, which is what the electorate is increasingly demanding. Too much political experience, or too little? Only 5 years as an MP, but Miliband's problem is he's a "professional politician"? In one sense, of course he's a "professional politician"; parliamentary parties don't vote amateurs in as their leaders. But he's done other things too, working as a journalist and as a researcher. Subtracting the several years of active politicking needed to become party leader from the 40-year mark leaves candidates in their early thirties; if they went to university they might have had a decade of everyday working life by then. They will have hunted for rental properties, maybe got a mortgage, maybe found a partner, maybe had children. Why do we assume that people who become leaders of political parties at 40 have none of the 'real life' experience any of us have?

What is this 'real' life, anyway? I'd really like to know. I'm an academic these days - ivory tower, sorry, not real. At various points I've been a bureaucrat (not real), an IT guy (not real), a student (not real), unemployed (get a real job), an aspiring writer (not realistic), and a freelance cartoonist (not really work, is it?). But I know how to cook, clean, swim, drive, ride a bike, swing an axe, book a flight, look after a baby... am I real yet?

Perhaps all this hits home because an old friend and almost exact contemporary of mine became leader of a political party, and with it a government, two years ago. He'd only been an MP for four years at that point, and a minister for two, so I imagine he gets some of this tiresome stuff too, even though he had a career in quite a different field before entering politics. From the account he gave when I met him in the pub six months before he became leader, there was nothing careerist about his initial decision to run for office: it was a case of having the right kind of experience, a bit of luck in making the right contacts, the opportunity to run, and the willingness to go for it. The same as when any of us apply for and get any new job. He's a real person, too.
posted by rory at 6:48 AM on September 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

He won't win the next election (nor would the other Ed, or the other Milliband; it wasn't a good field) - that'll be the Tories (if their economic plans work out OK) or another coalition.

That IF is bigger than the inexplicable hard-on Gordon Brown had for Mail and Express readers.

The next 12-18 months will see 1980s level spending cuts which will make life pretty shit for a huge number of the Labour voters Brown decided he didn't need and a good few Lib/Tory voters too. Killing tax-credits/child benefit could be Cameron's Poll Tax.

As for another coalition, the Libs are proper fucked. They're losing huge numbers of voters before the Tories successfully campaign against their beloved electoral reforms. Miliband could pick up enough of these alone to win the next election.

Fair play to Cameron, he's kept the rabid Tory right silent in much the same was as Blair did with the Labour left, but Blair had two decades of Thatcher hate to coast on and a massive majority to squander. This Government has a horrendous set of spending cuts to implement and two sets of voters to please.

I believe the saying is "Oppositions don't win elections Governments lose them". Unless Cleggeron personally foil an attack on the Queen in the 2012 opening ceremony Labour will have no trouble.
posted by fullerine at 10:41 AM on September 26, 2010

I was rooting for Stryker.
posted by jonnyploy at 12:22 PM on September 26, 2010

rory, I'm sorry, but the Millibands are pure-bred party animals (just not the fun-loving sort), and that's the main objection to them and the whole caste of politicians that's active throughout most modern democracies. Depicting them as "political wonks" is not entirely correct: what they've certainly spent all their lives eating, drinking and breathing is not politics as in active policy-making, but the sordid little intrigues of party internecine warfare and backstabbing (and little Ed has turned up to be more capable at it than his older brother).

Sure, they haven't spent their whole working lives as MPs, but it isn't as if being an MP was a starting point in any political career: before even getting a chance to contest a seat with a remotely reasonable chance of winning, you must fight your way all the way up to an elite of a few hundred party members, over the corpses of many other ambitious wannabes.

From Wikipedia:
(David) Miliband's first job was for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. From 1989 to 1994, he worked as a Research Fellow and policy analyst at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). He was appointed Secretary of the IPPR's Commission on Social Justice upon its foundation in 1992 by the then leader of the Labour Party, John Smith.[21] In 1994 Miliband became Tony Blair's Head of Policy and was a major contributor to Labour's manifesto for the 1997 general election.

Since 1989 is when he finished his MIT PoliSci degree, David Milliband has indeed spent his whole working life at the bosom of the Labour Party (the IPPR is a Labour-aligned think-tank).

Ed's career is even starker:
After a brief career in television journalism, Miliband became a speechwriter and researcher for Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Harriet Harman in 1993, and then for Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown the following year.

Considering that he was born in 1969, and got an MSc from LSE, which he can hardly finished younger than 22 or 23, his journalism career must have been short indeed.

The trouble with such people is that they are not experts in governing, or even getting elected. They are experts in the dark arts of internal party politics, of maneuvering in the shadows of the powerful, of glad-handing and flattering, exchanging favours and betraying allies, and, by any means fair or (preferably) foul, managing to become candidates in a seat safely in the hands of their party.

This is, by the way, not a reproach which is exclusive to the Millibands or the Labour party: it can be made to the leaders of all the other major British parties, or even any other major democracy. But it is a big problem, for two reasons: Firstly, democracy is supposed to be representative...however, few elected officials are truly representative of their constituencies. Most are only representative of their own rarefied caste. Secondly, because their whole education and experience is so much focussed on politics for politics' sake, they're mostly blithely ignorant of almost anything outside politics! As a result, as policymakers, they are easily influenced by lobbyists, media and self-appointed experts in most fields, from economics to science, through defence, food labelling and industrial policy. This all turns democracy into a mockery of the people's will.
posted by Skeptic at 5:06 PM on September 26, 2010

Skeptic, my question still remains, as it was all along: if not the Milibands (and I'm sure we would have had exactly the same discussion if David had won, so it doesn't matter which), then who? Which other Labour MPs in their early 40s were leadership material?

I don't have a list handy of all the Labour MPs. But if we could rank them by age and narrow in on those aged 40-45, and then eliminate the ones who only entered parliament in May, we would have a relatively short list, I'd bet. And the number with any public name-recognition (important for a new leader to have at least some) would be even smaller. These are the constraints parties work under. They can't magic up attractive potential leaders from thin air; they have to work with what they've got. In Labour's case, they had these guys.

(And remember Labour's other constraint: they wanted a new leader who wasn't too much in the thick of the Blair/Brown years, at least in the eyes of the public. Another reason to go for the young, "fresh" faces, and I'm sure the key reason David lost to Ed.)

Yes, MPs will tend to come from certain backgrounds, and will rely on advisory groups to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, and will be subject to lobbying. Lobbying is a crucial part of any democracy, because whatever range of skills MPs possess they'll never be able to cover every aspect of life in the entire country. As for the public, if we don't like the lobbyists we've got, then we have to become the lobbyists we want. And if we don't have the time or inclination to do that, we should accept that we, too, have to work with what we've got.

This is, by the way, not a reproach which is exclusive to the Millibands or the Labour party: it can be made to the leaders of all the other major British parties, or even any other major democracy.

Eh? Take Nick Clegg. You may not agree with his politics and actions, but he has a fascinating and varied background which hardly screams "political wonk". Other major democracies have leaders of major parties with backgrounds that didn't involve working for MPs and parties right out of university.

The trouble with such people is that they are not experts in governing, or even getting elected.

On the "getting elected" part, Ed Miliband seems to have passed a few crucial tests so far. As for governing, he spent three years in cabinet; that may not have made him an expert, but he's more expert than 99% of the population.
posted by rory at 1:45 AM on September 27, 2010

rory: Clegg is less of a party creature and more of a technocrat than the Milibands, a real political wonk indeed, and he does have a more colourful background, but he's also very much a member of the Caste. Not only is he an alumnus of the extraordinarily elite College of Europe, but he married another one. And within the European Commission, he was promoted to a Commissioner's personal staff, a political appointment reserved to those with solid political connections and the personal trust of the Commissioner (in his case, Leon Brittan).
Don't get me mistaken: I wish there were more Cleggs and fewer Milibands in politics, but even Clegg's position of power is due to a combination of extraordinary circumstances (mainly, the suicidal drive of several previous LibDem leaders, and of both Cameron and Brown during the last election campaign), and won't last beyond the next election, when the LibDems are almost guaranteed to be nuked.
I insist: few other party leaders in other democracies have had much of a life outside politics. Take Nicolas Sarkozy: he started climbing in his party when he was still a teenager. His current Socialist opponent, Martine Aubry was also, like the Milibands, born into her party: her father is one Jacques Delors. Spain's Zapatero also has a similarly monotonous cv, as does pretty much the entire Japanese political class. The only real exceptions I can think of, off the cuff, are Germany's Merkel and Italy's Berlusconi (although I wouldn't say that Italy is well served by the latter).
posted by Skeptic at 5:57 AM on September 27, 2010

I insist: few other party leaders in other democracies have had much of a life outside politics.

And I insist that you're right, for some approximation of "few" and "much". I was countering the suggestion that all major party leaders in major democracies were political wonks, by pointing out that there are exceptions.

I've been saying all along that party leaders in their 40s tend to be people with a stronger background in politics, that they aren't likely to be people from other walks of life who've just parachuted into parliament. There are unavoidable reasons for that. And if, as you insist, few other party leaders in other democracies have had much of a life outside politics, that would seem to confirm it.

more of a technocrat than the Milibands, a real political wonk indeed

So hang on, does "political wonk" mean a party creature or just anyone whose work has some connection to politics? Anyone who's had anything to do with bureaucracy, journalism, the law, or any kind of policy role could rate as a "political wonk" under that sort of definition (might as well add me - I'm a political scientist! - and if anyone ever said that gives me a lock on a party leadership whenever I want it, I would laugh and laugh). That's my main objection to the term: it's so nebulous that it means that people from many walks of life, with many different skills and insights, are dismissed as soon as they run for office as being career politicians, "political wonks" - and as everybody knows, all politicians are bastards.

I have no doubt that being unusually interested and involved in politics is a feature of most people who end up as leaders of major political parties. Complaining about leaders being political types is futile. But being unusually political in your interests doesn't mean that you're destined to become an MP or leader of a party, or that your life before or after entering parliament is somehow less real. What if Ed Miliband, instead of running for MP five years ago, had taken a promotion in the Treasury instead, or joined the BBC or the Guardian as an economic journalist, or gone into academia? He could have done any of those things in his mid-30s. Would his previous life still be interpreted as that of a "professional politician", said with a sneer?
posted by rory at 7:57 AM on September 27, 2010

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