David Miliband, ancien secrétaire d’Etat aux affaires étrangères de Gordon Brown et secrétaire d’Etat à l’environnement de Tony Blair, figure de l’opposition travailliste, a officiellement quitté la vie politique britannique le 27 mars 2013 pour se consacrer à une organisation humanitaire à New York. Il avait perdu les élections pour la tête du Labour en 2010 face à son frère, Ed Miliband. Ed hérite alors d’un parti divisé.
Let’s start with a little overview of David Miliband’s political life
David Miliband’s political life became national in 1994 – when he was still in his late twenties! – as he became Tony Blair’s Head of policy (policy adviser) when Blair took the helm of the Labour Party. After that, he had a brilliant career in the naughts as the Secretary of Department of Environment (he had the idea of a “carbon credit card”), and Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He almost occupied the post of High Representative of European Union for Foreign affairs and if he had been appointed instead of Catherine Ashton, the situation may have been different concerning Britain in the EU as Miliband isn’t a eurosceptic.
In 2007, Tony Blair encouraged David Miliband to be candidate for his succession at the leadership of the Labour Party but Miliband renounced and decided to support Gordon Brown. When Gordon Brown lost the general elections in 2010, he resigned as the Labour Party leader and David Miliband was the favourite to replace him. During the campaign, he had to fight his brother Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and was defeated by his brother, who is more radical. After this political defeat, he decided not to be in the Shadow Cabinet led by his brother.
Hurt by the fight against his brother to run the Labour Party, on the 27th March 2013, David Miliband at the age of 47, officially left politics in order to run a New York humanitarian organisation: the International Rescue Committee which helps victims of racial and religious persecutions.
What are the reactions and the consequences of his departure?
Ed Miliband reacted by saying that “British politics will be a poorer place without David” and Labour MPs found his departure regrettable because David could have been a brilliant PM, even a better one than his brother. Indeed, Ed is not charismatic enough so David leaving the Labour Party could be harmful for the party in the next elections. However, this decision could also resolve the problem of the scission of the party (Ed is more radical than his brother), and it could help Ed refocus Labour policy.
Who will replace him as MP in his constituency of South Shileds? After 12 years of David Miliband, the Labour Party chose a local female candidate who works in South Shields (North-East of England) as a bus driver! Why does this choice seem so unusual? Because today just 4% of all representatives were or are manual workers and a minority of MPs are women, unlike David Miliband who is the perfect example of all the other representatives who come from jobs in politics. And, at only 47, he will earn £300,000 by running the International Rescue Committee and has already raised £1 million since he left the government in 2010. Therefore people have the feeling that MPs are increasingly remote from the voters and this debasement of politicians is a burden for British politics.
Red Ed Redemption
In 2010, Gordon Brown resigned as Leader of the Labour Party and then has organized a leadership election. It led to a mano a mano between Ed and David Milliband. On September 25, Ed surprised everyone when he became the new Labour leader. Today Labour looks united, but Ed struggles to appear as a credible Prime Minister. Credibility is Ed’s recurrent problem. But it is not his only liability.
His main flaw is his « Red » Ed image. During his first important interview to the BBC, he denied that his election represented a shift to the left of the political spectrum. But the five-point plan for more responsible capitalism he promoted is really left-anchored. He also supports making the UK’s 50% top rate of tax permanent and has spoken in favour of a “National Care Service”. However, he said that he was favourable to some spending cuts, saying that the civil service would have to learn « to do better with less ».
In fact the whole combat of Ed Milliband was about uniting his party. Indeed, as he became leader of the Opposition, the Labour party was divided between Blairists (personified by his brother) and Brownists (Ed became a politician thanks to Gordon Brown). Today it seems that he achieved the union of the party. The annual conference of Labour in Manchester gave Ed the opportunity to see that his party was united behind him, but he still finds it hard to appear as a credible leader for the country.
Sophie Loussouarn, a French specialist of the Anglo-Saxon world said : “Without David Miliband and his ability to kick out the jams, the Labour party mustn’t come back to the old dogmas that condemned it to remain in the opposition for years”.
Today, Labour leads by 5 points in the polls, Ed seems to be uncontested in his party, all the more with the departure of his brother. However, he still has to prove that he is capable of governing Britain.
Laure FOURNIS, Matthieu SACRE & Paul TARSIGUEL