Thursday, February 02, 2012

David, Ed and the media

David Miliband's New Statesman article has garnered a great deal of media attention today. Everyone is either looking for, finding or creating signs of disagreement and tension between the elder Miliband and his brother, Ed, who beat him to the Labour leadership.

David's article is thoughtful and written with an academic style. The sentiment of this morning's media splashes has been wildly different. They have predictably focused on the fireworks rather than the proactive suggestions he makes because it makes for a much better story.

Is David really calling for a total re-think of his brother's stewardship of Labour? Does it matter? What does this tell us about Labour at the moment and the media's response to it?

David actually says what a host of Labour people said in the Purple Book recently, that the party needs to be state reformers and look beyond a big state as the answer to problems. He also stresses the need to balance internationalism, growth, investment and equal opportunities to help create an improving and thriving economy. It is hard to argue with any of this.

The perception gap with his brother isn't there in his words.

The perception gap between David and Ed's vision is in the words of the journalists who have reported on this. I don't see a great deal of difference between what the two brothers are either saying or putting into Labour policy. His key statement isn't all that different from what the Eds have been trying to get across to a sceptical media and voters:

"Our attacks on the Tories will not work if we are not clear about what we did. We should say loud and clear where we made mistakes, but we should also insist that the list of gains far outstripped the mistakes. After all, even David Cameron said on coming to office that Britain was better in 2010 than 1997."

He goes on:

"Principle without power is the stuff of a debating society, not a political party. "

The problem is that many commentators long ago decided that Ed's solutions are of the former, not the latter and haven't bothered to look at the detail because it gets in the way of a good story. David's ideas should be a hand up not a slap in the face for his brother. I think most within the Labour Party will see it that way, but that won't make a good story. 


Colm said...

I was at a reception yesterday for new Tooting CLP members hosted by Sadiq Khan at which Peter Hain also spoke. While you'd struggle to think of two Labour MPs more closely associated with Ed's leadership, a lot of what they said chimed with David's article. For example they talked about being proud of all the great things achieved between 97-10, and creating a more efficient and effective progressive state rather than the Tory "Big Brother" caricature.

I'm sure there are some difference in nuance, but they are generally coming from the same direction. It is hardly comparable to the irreconcilable differences between the Tories and Lib Dems over Europe for instance.

Tim McLoughlin said...

It is hardly comparable to the irreconcilable differences within the Labour party of the early 1980s either