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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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.