Where David Miliband went wrong

A new book examines the Labour leadership election, and the elder Miliband's mistakes

Did Movement for Change cost David Miliband the leadership election? According to the soon to be published Tangled Up In Blue: Blue Labour and the Struggle for Labour's soul, it may well have done.

The book, written by Guardian columnist Rowenna Davis, and published by that perennial enfant terrible of the modernising left, Derek Draper, is set to chart the rise, fall, (and Lazarus like re-birth?), of Maurice Glasman and his controversial fourth way philosophy. Focusing on the influence Glasman and his community organizing ethos had on Labour's dramatic leadership contest, Davis is said to conclude the elder Miliband's decision to place the embryonic activist group at the heart of his organisational structure proved a fateful one.

"At the heart of Rowenna's narrative is an examination of the way Movement for Change shaped the leadership election", said a source familiar with the book. "The big question is, was MfC influential in costing David the contest? From what I've read I'd have to say I think it did".

The source added, "It's clear that Movement for Change provided a distraction, and led to David's team spending time and resources focusing on that aspect of their strategy, rather than organising and reaching out to the membership more directly".

Although David Miliband and his brother were both interviewed for the book, it is said to paint a less than flattering picture of the former Foreign Secretary's pet community-organising project. "The problem appears to have been that David and his team just assumed they would win", said a Labour source, "they thought they could afford to do something at the start of the campaign [the establishment of Movement for Change] that they could just as easily have done afterwards".

The focus on Movement for Change's role in the leadership contest comes at a sensitive time. Last week it was announced the organisation was set to become an official Labour affiliate as part of the Refounding Labour review, which has also recommending rewording of Clause 1 of the party's constitution to place greater emphasis on community organising.

Tangled Up In Blue, titled after the Bob Dylan song, will also shed light on the close relationship between Lord Glasman, described as the god-father of British community politics, and Labour leader Ed Miliband. In July the Labour peer caused outrage after calling for a ban on all immigration, a stance which lead to the disbanding of the loose Blue Labour coalition which included prominent centre-left thinkers such as Jon Cruddas and Jonathan Rutherford. Although Lord Glasman was forced to issue an apology via the New Statesman, sources who have read Ed Miliband's contribution to the book say he is standing by his controversial advisor; "Ed has plenty of opportunities in the book to distance himself from Maurice. He doesn't do it".

Despite this there are few signs that Glasman is preparing to tone down his outspoken style; "If you listen to Maurice you find yourself half agreeing with him and half thinking he's completely mad", said one Labour insider. A podcast interview Glasman conducted with Rowenna Davis to coincide with the book's upcoming Guardian serialisation is said to open with an outspoken assault on the public sector; "That's the thing about Maurice", said one Labour observer, "he transforms the discussion".

The involvement of Derek Draper in the book's publication has itself stirred comment from within Labour ranks, with some people speculating it presages a return to front-line politics for Peter Mandelson's notorious former advisor. His last foray into the Westminster beltway, as editor of Labour List, ended predictably enough in scandal after he was linked with Damien McBride's efforts to dish the dirt on senior Tories in what became known as "smeargate".

However friends of Draper are skeptical that his publishing venture represents another political comeback. "Derek thinks there's a vacuum in centre-left publishing that needs to be filled", said a friend, "but he doesn't see it as a comeback. He's still focused on his psychotherapy work, and helping Kate [Garroway, his wife] with Goodypass [a web site that provides celebrity discounts to the public]". A former colleague agrees; "He's only planning to sell a few thousand copies of the book, and any profits are being given to charity. He sees Ruskin [the name of Draper's new publishing house] as a project, not his ticket back to the big time".

Derek Draper. Maurice Glasman. Ed Miliband. David Miliband. Movement for Change. All Tangled up together in Blue. What could possibly go wrong?

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR