To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
27 Sep 2010 13:31
Ed Miliband has finally emerged from his older brother’s shadow to win the leadership of Britain’s opposition Labour Party but now faces a challenge to unify the party.
The two brothers have taken almost identical paths—Ed following David to the same state-run school in London and the same Oxford college through working for the Labour Party, election to Parliament and becoming a Cabinet minister.
Now Ed (40) has finally got ahead of his 45-year-old brother, seizing the leadership of the party that had seemed within his older brother’s grasp.
His wafer-thin victory means he could one day become prime minister if he can rebuild the centre-left party’s support after defeat in a May election ended 13 years of Labour rule.
To do so, he must unify the party which has been torn by years of feuding between supporters of the former Labour prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.
He must also win round Labour members of Parliament and activists, more of whom voted for David than for Ed. Strong union backing helped Ed edge over the 50% winning line.
Miliband must devise a strategy to fight the coalition government’s deep spending cuts, aimed at reducing a record peacetime budget deficit, without appearing irresponsible.
David Miliband, a former foreign minister, was long seen as the heir to Blair, who led Labour to three consecutive election victories with his centrist, pro-business policies.
He passed up a chance to run for the party leadership when Blair resigned in 2007 and had several opportunities to wield the knife when Brown’s premiership was teetering, but he drew back and his chance of leading Labour now appears to have gone.
Ed has slightly more left-wing views than his brother and is close to the Brown camp.
Ed won despite writing the party’s manifesto for the May election which his brother criticised as uninspiring.
The two brothers regularly speak of their love for each other but former Labour leader Neil Kinnock has said he was surprised by David’s “deeply resentful” response to Ed standing for the leadership.
The Miliband brothers have lived and breathed politics since their childhood.
Their Jewish father, Ralph, born in Brussels, was a prominent Marxist academic who fled to Britain to escape the Nazis in 1940.
Ralph Miliband, a lecturer at the London School of Economics (LSE), turned his home into a magnet for left-wing visitors.
Ed Miliband has recalled meeting anti-apartheid activist Ruth First, a former student of his father’s, in 1982.
“When I was 12 years old the phone rang and we were told she had been assassinated by the South African secret service—blown up by a letter bomb,” he said in a speech in June.
“Some people will wonder about why I got to care about politics.
After studying at Oxford University and the LSE, Miliband worked briefly as a television journalist before becoming a speechwriter and researcher for prominent Labour politician Harriet Harman and then for Brown.
Elected member of Parliament for Doncaster North in 2005, Miliband had a rapid rise through the ministerial ranks, just like his brother before him.
Brown made him energy and climate change secretary in 2008, putting him in charge of Britain’s preparations for the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009.
Create Account | Lost Your Password?