David Miliband launches Obama-style “movement for change”

Inside former foreign secretary’s web launch: why Labour lost and how it can rebuild in the 21st cen

David Miliband has this evening launched his new online campaign -- davidmiliband.net -- to build a "movement for change" and help him win the Labour leadership race.

Addressing a small group of observers in Westminster, the former foreign secretary gave a frank assessment of why Labour lost the election, saying the party needs to become a "movement" again. The website carries a "practical" look at why the election was lost. However, Miliband sounded a note of optimism, saying it was an "exciting time to be on the centre left of politics", and that an "interdependent" world called for "social justice".

Tom Harris, the Labour MP for Glasgow South, who was first to declare for David Miliband -- even before Miliband did -- said that "David is the candidate for the leadership who can win".

The website will enable ordinary members of the public to organise meetings and discussions to discuss political change. It will have a chat forum as well as regular blogs from Miliband.

The site has echoes of the innovative online campaign launched by Barack Obama. Users can donate to the Miliband campaign but also to the Labour Party, and a third of sums given to the drive will be donated by Miliband to Labour's fighting fund at the next general election.

The site will list non-Labour supporters of the campaign, as well as MPs and senior party supporters.

"The broader the base, the more likely you are to strengthen party membership," Miliband said.

When I asked him to expand on his admission that Labour was not enough of a "movement" at the last election, Miliband re-emphasised his point when he launched his campaign: that Labour now has a "responsibility" to become the progressive, centre-left movement that wins over Lib Dems who did not want to crown David Cameron

"They ran on a ticket to keep the Tories out," he said, "but they kept them in." He added that the party must be "pluralist".

Miliband's new slogan is: "Bringing Labour together -- leading Labour to power".

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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