So. Farewell then, David Miliband

So.david miliband
Farewell then
David Miliband.

You did not
Win the
Labour leadership.

Though you got more votes
Than Brother Ed

The trade unions
Did not
like you.

They liked
him instead.

That was
your tragedy.
And it will be

EJ Thribb

And so David Miliband exits the political stage, pursued by a barely concealed sense of thwarted ambition. The man who, but for four MPs’ votes, would now be Labour leader and PM-in-waiting is instead leaving the country for New York to run an international charity. (Another small victory for Theresa May’s crusade to drive down net migration.)

Four years ago you’d have got good odds on David Miliband and James Purnell being two of Labour’s leading lights; neither are now MPs. The pendulum of politics has swung decisively away from the Blairites.

With Labour’s own debt-ridden finances now increasingly dependent on funding from the trade unions (and in particular the public sector union Unite) Ed Miliband has very little room for manoeuvre. He knows he must persuade the public that Labour will put national interests before producer interests; yet he needs to keep the unions on side. Trapped, he’s become a Trappist on issues like public sector pay and reform.

As for David Miliband, well, part of me is sympathetic. He came so close, and lost to the only person whose victory would inevitably shut him out of top-table politics.

But before we get the violins out to serenade him across the pond, let’s remember here was a man who not only voted for the Iraq war but was also probably complicit in the state-sanctioned torture. Remember that, and I find my sympathy ebbs just a little.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Grammar Police 27th Mar '13 - 11:19am
  • Richard Dean 27th Mar '13 - 11:34am

    Would a scurrilous and unsupported accusation that someone was “complicit in state-sanctioned torture” be:

    (a) consistent with LibDem commenting policy?
    (b) actionable under the press regulation proposals?
    (c) already actionable under existing libel laws?

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Mar '13 - 11:37am

    “Though you got more votes
    Than Brother Ed”

    Shome mishtake, shurely?

    Round one (first preferences only): Ed = 125,649 votes, David = 114,205 votes.

    Final round (with second preferences redistributed): Ed = 175,519 votes, David = 147,220.

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Mar '13 - 12:40pm

    I’m a card-carrying affiliated member (through Unison). I pay a subscription to Labour each month so is it not perfectly right and proper that I should be allowed to vote in the party’s leadership elections?

    I followed the link in your post, and found an article containing zero proof and endless speculation (just count all those rhetorical questions!). The most damning evidence offered against him seems to be the claim by an anonymous MP that Miliband’s face “turned ashen” when he heard the announcement of a judicial review. Not really enough to convict a man on, is it?

    Maybe I’m just not reading the article thoroughly enough. Can you quote anything in particular that supports the allegations?

  • Geoffrey Payne 27th Mar '13 - 1:26pm

    Blairism is way overrated. Blair was very lucky to win in 2005 with just 36% of the national vote. The Tories with more votes had to go into Coalition. And of course the defeat of Labour in 2010 was the second worst result since WW2.
    They carried on the Thatcherite revolution and thought that their free market economics had abolished boom and bust. Their pubic sector reforms failed to democratise and decentralise power, and for that matter win many votes.
    The last thing the country needs is a continuation of Blairism/ Thatcherism.

  • Stephen,
    You are being disingenuous with the union quip. Labour Party members voted for Ed thus the wishes of the mandarins were outnumbered, Quite right too. It’s the nature of democracy that votes equal power. In this case a form of AV. . Alternatively, you could have a party who’s members regularly vote on mass for policies that are ignored by its leadership.

  • ” let’s remember here was a man who not only voted for the Iraq war but was also probably complicit in the state-sanctioned torture.”

    This is pretty poor standards by an editor of LDV. If someone on this site contributed a similar post against a Liberal Democrat MP then I am in no doubt that the post wold not be allowed.

    I wish David would have won over younger brother Ed, it would have given me more confidence in supporting a future Labour government.

    As for Labours debt ridden finances and becoming ever dependent on union funding, It would do well for the liberal democrats to remember that their own previous party donations have come from extremely questionable sources and from characters with an unsavory nature.
    People living in glass houses and all that !

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 27th Mar '13 - 2:31pm

    I would like to amplify that Ed Milliband got 28,299 more votes in the leadership contest than David. The Labour internal party electorate instrinsically includes Union members. The only logic for excluding them is because the other parties don’t include them, which is daft. As for scanning, as any fule kno, E J Thribb Farewell “poems” don’t scan completely. That’s one of main points of them….

  • When I read it, I assumed that “.. more votes/ Than brother Ed” referred to Labour MPs.

    As for “probably complicit in state sanctioned torture”, David Miliband was Foreign Secretary, so I presume that those objecting are claiming that torture that had some UK involvement did not happen, or at least did not while David Miliband was a minister. Clearly there have been strenuous and costly efforts to keep the evidence out of the courts, but deniability is seems less than plausible. Perhaps it all happened under Straw and Miliband has clean hands or UK security services are seriously out of control, so it is probably correct to say’probably’.

    My own impression of David Miliband is that he is very far from the worst from Labour’s front line.

  • “@ Richard Dean – not scurrilous, not unsupported. Follow the link in my post. And note the word “probably” rather than snipping it.”

    Whatever the pros and cons of this particular statement, it’s a good example of the kind of thing that LDV publishes which could reasonably be the subject of legal action (even if you are confident you could defend it successfully), and if LDV were a “relevant publisher” and did not subscribe to a recognised regulator the presumption would be that LDV would have to pay both parties’ costs.

  • David Wilkinson 27th Mar '13 - 5:51pm

    Glad to see the back of him.
    Another of the Westminister village set who as never done a real day’s work, straight from uni to Westminister and then tells the rest of us what to do. Just like a lot more in all 3 main parties
    He was part the Blair government that lied about the Iraq war that as cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

  • Just a quick question – how much is a full Labour party membership fee, and how much is the political levy for an Affiliated Trade Union or cooperative?

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Mar '13 - 8:22pm

    That’s not a straightforward question. Full party membership has a scale of fees depending on circumstances. Different unions will have different levy rates, and within each union there is a sliding scale depending on salary. So in reality there are dozens of different rates.

    Martin: “David Miliband was Foreign Secretary, so I presume that those objecting are claiming that torture that had some UK involvement did not happen, or at least did not while David Miliband was a minister.”

    First we saw presumption of innocence cast aside. Now you seem to be suggesting that it’s up to people like me to prove that Miliband is innocent, instead of the onus being on his accusers to prove him guilty. It’s amazing how ready Liberals are to ditch the most basic principles of justice where a Labour politician is concerned.

  • Peter Watson 27th Mar '13 - 9:31pm

    It’s a good job that such state sanctioned torture has most definitely stopped, or our Lib Dem ministers would also be probably complicit in it. And thank goodness that our guys would never allow secret trials where evidence of torture might be suppressed.
    Or perhaps it’s time for Lib Dem pots to stop criticising the blackness of Labour kettles, and accept that we have failed miserably to deliver Clegg’s holier-than-thou “new kind of politics”.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '13 - 9:48pm

    I was hoping we would have shown him more respect. I for one felt sad when I found out he was leaving politics, even though I think it’s a good thing for the Lib Dems. Let us not forget that he made the strongest argument of anyone in parliament against the benefits freeze – far better than Ed Miliband’s “strivers tax”.

  • @Eddie Sammon:
    “I was hoping we would have shown him more respect. ”

    Why? He was a grossly over-promoted (rather like Owen) Blairite nerd . You could walk into your average West End restaurant and find a couple of more suitable ministers. He actually represents 80 per cent of what is wrong with politics in the UK today.

  • So Farewell then David Miliband,

    Britain’s answer
    to Condaleza Rice
    the endearing pout
    But wth all the rendition.

    Your campaign to be Labour Leader
    went tits up
    and left us with the bro
    from whose brain
    You pulled that banana.

  • David, I said, as you boarded an Airbus at Heathrow
    You’re loaded an past it and I don’t know why
    Our MPs backed you but the Unions had none of it
    So fly off and look for America. . . . . . .

  • A key component of Blairism (and I’m using the past tense intentionally) was unquestioning support for US foreign policy, which Blairites liked to dress up as some kind of moral force for getting rid of nasty dictators and spreading “Western” values across the globe. In reality, Blairism was nothing more than a mechanism for furthering the interests of the European and North American economic elites who see war as a useful tool in their ceaseless struggle to make themselves richer. Blair is a ham actor devoid of any moral soul. The very sight and sound of him makes me cringe. David Miliband doesn’t have that effect on me. He looks to me (and I may be entirely wrong) a highly able and vaguely decent man who served a bad master. Perhaps he will redeem himself in his new role.

  • @Stuart Mitchell
    so are all votes equal?

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '13 - 11:47pm

    We should not bring ageism into this. There is nothing wrong with having young highly educated people in politics, along with older more experienced “non career politician” types. All humans should be shown respect, especially those who have given up so much for public service and are now going to work in charity.

  • @Peter: It is good to see the principle that one man’s failing justifies another, heck you know what, I hear in China they use blackout prisons, I guess as they have failed to get rid of this, it means we are OK to do it as well,

    David Milliband

  • I simply don’t believe S Tall’s character assassination. We should have put in a transfer request for D Milliband to take over leadership of the Lib Dems on the grounds of competence.

  • Paul In Twickenham 28th Mar '13 - 9:03am

    There’s an old adage in American business to the effect that if you want to get ahead then it helps to be tall and have good hair. David Milliband appears to me to be the political equivalent of “tall with good hair”.

    I cannot think of anything of note that he did while serving in the Blair/Brown government, other than (as others have stated) voting for the Iraq war and a raft of illiberal legislation.

    I wish him the best of luck but frankly – based on his record in government – it is hard to see how we are the worse for his departure. As someone points out above, you could walk into Tesco, throw a bap and hit 10 people who could have been at least as effective as he was. I should add that you could hit at least 20 people who would be more effective than Clegg.

  • Ed Shepherd 28th Mar '13 - 9:07am

    Perhaps David Milliband geniunely feels that working for an organisation that brings relief to victims of disasters is a more worthwhile use of his working life than being in British politics?

    And as far as I am aware, the UK government continues to trade with and sell weapons to despotic regimes that use torture. And there are a number of politicians in the current UK coalition government who voted in favour of the Iraq War.

  • Stuart Mitchell 28th Mar '13 - 9:47am

    Oranjepan: “so are all votes equal?”

    No, and I’d agree that the Labour leadership election rules are a mess. The man with the most votes won, but by luck rather than design. Curious that some people here seem to think an election decided solely by MPs would have been better than an election decided by party members of all kinds.

  • I hope that when he’s explained the difference between a champagne socialist and an actual socialist to the Americans they will let him stay. Never before in mankind’s long history was such a huge ego combined with such a tiny charisma in one person.

  • Grammar police 29th Mar '13 - 4:15pm

    @Stuart Mitchell “Curious that some people here seem to think an election decided solely by MPs would have been better than an election decided by party members of all kinds.”

    I don’t think people are saying this, I think they’re saying that Ed won in a slightly odd way, and that omov might have been better.

    Ordinary Labour party members’ votes were diluted in a number of ways.

    First, Labour parliamentarians’ votes are worth more than other members’ votes because of the electoral college.

    Secondly, a number people had more than one vote, as they got a vote per electoral college category they were members of.

    Lastly, the union link is also strange; giving “membership” to thousands of trade unionists who automatically pay a levy that’s different to the party membership fee. Many trade unionists were probably unaware of their right to vote in Labour leadership elections until they received their ballot papers, wrapped in Ed Miliband-supporting propaganda, sent out by union leaderships.

  • Stuart Mitchell 30th Mar '13 - 12:55pm

    @Grammar police
    I’ve already agreed that the Labour leadership rules are bizarre. It’s a ludicrous system and should be replaced by OMOV. That said, it’s pretty clear from the actual result that Ed would have won fair and square under OMOV, though as I acknowledged, it’s pure luck that the actual result mirrored this.

    I don’t agree that the concept of affiliated members is “strange”. In my union (Unison), I signed up to pay a monthly levy to their affiliated political fund which is called “Labour Link”. There was no question of me not knowing where the money was going! I don’t know what other unions call their funds, but it’s pretty insulting to suggest that affiliated members don’t even realise it. I pay around £18 per year to Labour in this way – more than several categories of non-affiliated members pay, and incidentally, 50% more than I’d have to pay to become a member of the Lib Dems – so why on earth shouldn’t I have a vote? It would be a pretty rum do if certain types of paying member were excluded from elections.

  • He actually got (8%) fewer votes than his brother – which is why if those 4 MPs had voted the other way and he’d become leader, he’d have been immediately ham-strung for being unelected. Labour already has OMOV, but it needs to scrap the electoral college weighting and count the votes equally (at the moment, a constituency member’s vote counts for about four trade union members’ votes, and an MP’s vote counts for hundreds of constituency members’ votes).

  • Grammar Police

    If you dont like Labour’s way of electing a leader then join the Party and campaign for a change. It is up to them how they do it. If it bothers voters that much then they can choose not to vote for the party because of it

    At the end of the day the only electorate for PM is the HoC, not the electorate

  • Simon Banks 8th Apr '13 - 9:28pm

    That Miliband was Foreign Secretary when various activities usually associated with military dictatorships were conducted with British agents’ connivance suggests either that he was complicit or that he was uninquisitive. But assume he was not guilty even by omission and his record is still unimpressive: long service as a cabinet minister without anything of substance in the world being different as a result of his involvement; his one big chance to make an impact (review of local government finance) kicked into the long grass; and a campaign for the leadership that managed to be articulate, reasoned and politically incompetent, letting himself be painted as the Blairite candidate and failing to see that his lead was eroding to the point that defeat was quite likely. What competent Lib Dem activist in a local council race, seeing the canvass analysis always placed him ahead but by steadily diminishing margins till it was almost a dead heat, would not really consider he might lose? It smacks of arrogance, as did the horrified reaction of his wife, as though he had a right to be leader.

    Moreover, I fail to see why Ed winning made David’s continued involvement at the Labour top table impossible. Embarrassing, yes, but impossible?

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