Published on 8 Jan 2013

What was David Miliband up to?

David Miliband’s speech was quite an arresting critique of how his brother and Ed Balls are running the debate on the economy.

He accepted the spending envelope that the coalition has set. This was not a rhetorical device for the debate, it was in the original notes – as well as the interrupted real event as delivered in the Commons (you get a flavour of that here).

This is something that Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have not done and is clearly where the Labour position would be if David M was in charge. George Osborne freely tells friends he hopes Labour stays in the Ed Miliband/Ed Balls position so he can demand where they find money to fund the black hole in between.

David Miliband also showed a readiness to criticise Labour’s record – he referred to “our deficit” and talked (I edit this to bring out a particular half of the meaning in the full text) about the “rancid … reek of the politics … of the dog days of the (Gordon) Brown administration.” He drew attention to the lack of fresh Labour retaliatory policy by coming up with his own £26,000 cap on pension relief to match the £26,000 cap the coalition is placing on total claimable benefit (by implication accepting the £26,000 welfare cap?).

I’m not convinced that David Miliband is about to rush back into frontbench politics but he is getting better at the shorter, time-limited interventions a backbencher is kept to and he is getting a little readier to say what he thinks about where his party has gone under his brother. Choosing this occasion, when there had been talk of a Blairite caucus against the Labour opposition to the up-rating bill, to throw his weight behind the specific opposition to the coalition measure, while at the same time deftly attacking his party’s past and current decisions was quite a spectacle to watch but I don’t think it portends an imminent return to the frontline by his brother’s side.

Some of you have taken great offence at what I said about David Miliband’s allusion to the dog days of Gordon Brown’s administration.

I think he was very deliberately using strong critical words about Gordon Brown’s style of government and elegantly combining them with and semi-concealing then under an attack on the similarly (from his point of view) depressing coalition tactics. They are not side by side, enmeshed together by accident. It is an old trick elegantly executed. He gets the chance to say something, show a bit of leg but keep it deniable, just as he did with The Guardian article on 30 July 2009 making a move for the leadership in a carefully camouflaged way. I still don’t believe today’s speech was a move for the leadership, by the way, but if you don’t think he didn’t labour painstakingly over every single word and where it was placed I think you may be mistaken.

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9 reader comments

  1. David parker says:

    your slant on David milibands speech is ridiculous and the notes do not sustain it either. stick to factual commentary.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    The Millibands?

    Just another manifestation of the CamClegg Two Headed Boy.

    Britain remains a de facto one part state. All the rest is smoke, mirror and lies.

    In ten years time I can guarantee you will be reporting the same garbage from the same kind of people with the same mentality.

    By then it won’t even be funny.

  3. Stephen Townsley says:

    Shame the focus is on Milliband personality politics in Westminster. In the real world people suffer more than a bruised ego from losing a leadership election.

    Did I miss the report on a new tax avoidance bill? Surely the Tories cant be targetting those who don’t fight back?

  4. Ashley says:

    Being on the front bench might impinge on his activities as a part-time MP and advisor, speaker, consultant, etc., etc.

    #£cash #AllInThisTogether

  5. Mark Wilcox says:

    I was more interested in the process, or to be precise; distracted by his shaking hand and nervous glances at his notes. If this was a bid to get back into the limelight then he needs to (re) sharpen his presentation skills. Perhaps his nervousness was a manifestation of the position he was taking. He certainly lacked confidence and didn’t do himself any favours.
    Secondly, what is it about purple ties that some politicians find appealing? Its a nauseous colour and a fudge of red and blue which in my mind sums up the Blairite camp.

  6. Robert Taggart says:

    Our ‘equal’ could do no worse than his ‘Milibund’ kid bro !

  7. Alex says:

    “but if you don’t think he didn’t labour painstakingly over every single word and where it was placed I think you may be mistaken.”

    Do you mean this? Or the opposite? It’s only a blog, but still.

  8. Vickie Tarrant says:

    Extremely glad to hear David Milliband is not rushing to the front bench. The Milliband brothers and all other robotic politicians are yesterday’s men. What the world needs,as leaders, are benevolent autocrats but unfortunately human nature being what it is …Our man for the 21st century is Nick Boles. Morality and justice revisited. Let’s back men, from whatever party, who have a developed sense of fairness and a demonstrable dedication to actually serving the public. Men who don’t need scientific studies to determine the colour of their ties and whose manner of speaking resembles other earthlings’.

  9. Andrew Thorpe says:

    This makes a lot of sense to me, and I wonder how long a game David M is prepared to play. He doesn’t need to be in a rush. My hunch is that he’s going to keep himself just outside the shadow cabinet until he can be pretty sure that Lab will win the next election. Then I think he will come in. But timing will be important and that’s not always been his strength…

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