The Labour party in Britain has a new leader, one Ed Miliband. You don’t recognize the name? Nor do 99 in a hundred people in Britain. This unknown quantity is 40 years old, and he’s done nothing in his life except politics. There is another Miliband, first name David, who was expected to become the Labour leader. His experience is similarly narrow, he too has done nothing except politics, but at least he was foreign secretary in Gordon Brown’s government, now mercifully defunct. There were moments when Miliband D was being encouraged to rise up and stiff the disastrous Brown, but he funked it every time. If he’d had the guts, he might have replaced Brown, won the election, and been prime minister today.
Actually the two brothers are best described by words in the idiom of today, like nerd or geek. They both seem to lack whatever it is that makes real human beings. But there it is, we electors aren’t really choosers any more, as our politicians seem self-selecting. Miliband D and pretty well all the smart money thought that he was a shoo-in to become Labour leader now that Brown has lost the election and vanished in a puff of smoke. He ran the rather regal campaign of one expecting his due. And then Miliband E, his younger brother, suddenly, unexpectedly, decided to run against him. Fratricide! Cain and Abel! They made a pretense of brotherly love, though the masks kept slipping. The crunch came when Miliband E said that the Iraq campaign had been a regrettable mistake. Miliband D had backed it and his anger at this attack was at last something real. It is of course now dogma in Labour circles that Blair lied about Iraq’s weaponry, groveled to George W. Bush, and he and everyone associated with him are no better than criminals.
The voting system of this leadership election is manifestly unfair, so that Miliband D actually got more of the significant votes from colleagues but Miliband E won on account of block votes from trade unions. That was accidental, so to speak. What is purposeful about the winner is that he has become the Labour leader only by stiffing his brother. When the result was announced, Mrs. Miliband D was seen on television to weep. The poor woman was also wearing an outfit chosen for victory. They hastened away home, and after a suitable pause Miliband D has announced that he is retiring to the back-benches at Westminster and will not serve under his brother.
What kind of men can they be to have got themselves into this confusion and rivalry, protesting love while each promoting personal ambition at the expense of the other? The answer may lie in their background and upbringing. Their father, Ralph Miliband, was a hardline Marxist and Stalinist, one of a group of academics who in Cold War days were saying that every crime and brutality was right if it was in the Soviet interest. On meeting him, I recall that I was horrified. The boys’ mother, Marion, happens to be in the news too. She belongs to a group of left-wing Jews who have sent nine of their number on a yacht to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver aid to Hamas. The Israelis have taken charge of the boat.
The whole Miliband family performance, in my view, is a throwback, yet another attempt to practice socialism and discover how far they can push it.