So now we know it for sure. The Labour leadership contest is going to contain two members of the family Miliband within it. Ed – who the pundits point to as a Brownite and David – apparently a Blairite, or at least that’s the Milibranding at this stage. But after the spectacle of the Labour election – is this dose of sibling rivalry a bridge too far for the already nauseated British public? And have the media missed a trick in making this, the focus of their reporting on the Labour leadership contest?
Sibling rivalry is nothing new. From the quasi incestuous protestations of love from Reagan and Goneril in the opening act of demented King Lear, through to the all Williams final at Wimbledon we have witnessed the sublime and the ridiculous in sibling rivalry through our art, our literature, our televisions and on our pitches and courts.
The Hitchens brothers Peter and Christopher are the poster boys of this most hilarious of human phenomena; poles apart in ideology and both opinion formers for their opposing factions. One brother hastily reeling up the drawbridges while the other takes a knife to the ropes…and the robes at the same time.
This is not the case with the brothers Miliband. These chaps have lived almost identical lives. Attending the same Camden comprehensive school, the same college at Oxford studying the same subject even, joining the same political party and sharing their seats in the same cabinet. One could also charge them with having the same, slightly ear crinkling nasally voice – if one were to be so coarse, which one of course is not.
So as a voter and an ex labour voter, passionately hoping for something radically inspirational to come out of the party, if only for the virtue of democracy and fair choice – I am left asking – what’s the point in both these guys being in the leadership contest? What is the choice here?
Well I guess the two questions to be asked are: Why does each man want to be leader of the Labour party now? And why does each man think Labour lost the election?
I am standing for the leadership of the Labour Party, because I believe passionately that it is the best vehicle, the best hope, for progressive change in our country.
I am standing because I believe I can lead Labour to rebuild itself as the great reforming champion of social and economic change in this country.
The truth is that as government wore on we lost that sense of mission and of being in touch with people’s concerns. We stopped providing answers to the questions that were paramount in people’s lives. We came to seem more caretakers than idealists—more technocratic than transformative.
People felt we were late to the game on political reform, antisocial behaviour. We lost focus on that. Immigration, late to the game with the Australian points system. Social care, late to the game.
That clears that up then.
Whether brothers or not – the saddest thing they have in common is that both had their grubby little mitts all over the previous government. They were central to it. And both didn’t rebel against a single bill or law that went through.
One has to question the legitimacy of pretensions as a radical reformer by any candidate so tied into the previous government. How can Ed, Dave or Mr Balls credibly move from preaching the values of the war on terror and the systematic dismantling of civil liberties on the couch of Andrew Marr last month to bleating about the insanity of that approach this month? One has to question also, the timing of this dawning realisation on their part? Purely by losing an election? Did they have doubts about the way the party was headed before this and if so, what did they personally do to shape things then?
Because sibling rivalry aside, the mainstream media are missing a bigger story here. While the leadership candidates rush with the tide of public opinion to be the loudest deriders of Labour’s mistakes – the role they are applying for is Leader. And neither of these brothers can lay any claim to have stood up to be counted in any real way when it counted for us.
Come forth the men and women who did, the so called Labour rebels. The Diane Abbotts, The Jeremy Corbyns, The Glenda Jacksons…Crikey, even the Kate Hoeys (re: detention without trial) and let’s start seeing what they can bring to the table. Then we may have a REAL contest on our hands, and the possibility of a sea change in what it means to be the Labour party.