Now David Miliband shows a bit of steel of his own

Contender says if he thought Ed Miliband or another would do better, he’d be running their campaign.

Earlier, I reported one supporter of Ed Miliband pointing out that if it was true, as put about by some political rivals, that he couldn't make decisions, then how did he make "the biggest decision of his life" by challenging his older brother, David.

Both Miliband brothers are occasionally accused by their mutual rivals of being a bit wimpish, and David has long been described -- confusingly, given that he was at the same time accused of "disloyalty" -- as a "bottler" for not challenging Gordon Brown. Now, David has made it clear that he believes he is the best candidate to be leader and prime minister -- better than even his brother -- albeit reluctantly and after (inevitable) hard pressing by Andrew Marr.

Marr's show has published the transcript and here is the relevant extract:

Would Ed Miliband make a good leader of the Labour Party?

DAVID MILIBAND:

Well I'm not going to say anything other than that I think we've got a fantastically talented range of candidates right across the party. But it's very . . .

ANDREW MARR:

But people have to choose between you . . .

DAVID MILIBAND:

They do and I . . .

ANDREW MARR:

That's the nature of the contest.

DAVID MILIBAND:

And I'm going to talk about what I will bring, and I'm not going to go in for any of the negative campaigning or diminution . . .

ANDREW MARR:

[over] I'm asking you a positive question: would he be a good leader?

DAVID MILIBAND:

. . . diminution . . . diminution of other candidates. It's really important that we talk positively about what we can bring. And I think it's very . . .

ANDREW MARR:

So a positive question: would he be a good leader?

DAVID MILIBAND:

I'm going to take an absolute omertà on this because it's so important that the Labour Party . . .

ANDREW MARR:

OK.

DAVID MILIBAND:

. . . shows the country that it's ready to be a fighting opposition and an alternative government. And I'm running . . . I tell you what, let me put it this way. If I thought either Ed Miliband or Ed Balls or Andy Burnham or Diane Abbott or John McDonnell would be a better leader of the opposition or a better prime minister than I, then I would be running their campaigns. But I don't, and that's why I'm running my own campaign.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Show Hide image

What Donald Trump could learn from Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement.

“No one remembers who came in second.” That wisdom, frequently dispensed by the US presidential candidate Donald Trump, came back to haunt him this week. Trump’s loss in the Iowa Republican caucuses to the Texas senator Ted Cruz, barely beating Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for second place, was the first crack in a campaign that has defied all expectations.

It has been a campaign built on Trump’s celebrity. Over the past eight months, his broad name recognition, larger-than-life personality and media savvy have produced a theatrical candidacy that has transfixed even those he repels. The question now is whether that celebrity will be enough – whether a man so obsessed with being “Number One” can bounce back from defeat.

Iowa isn’t everything, after all. It didn’t back the eventual Republican nominee in 2008 or 2012. Nor, for that matter, in 1980, when another “celebrity” candidate was in the mix. That was the year Iowa picked George H W Bush over Ronald Reagan – the former actor whom seasoned journalists dismissed as much for his right-wing views as for his “B-movie” repertoire. But Reagan regrouped, romped to victory in the New Hampshire primary and rode a wave of popular support all the way to the White House.

Trump might hope to replicate that success and has made a point of pushing the Reagan analogy more generally. Yet it is a comparison that exposes Trump’s weaknesses and his strengths.

Both men were once Democrats who came later in life to the Republican Party, projecting toughness, certainty and unabashed patriotism. Trump has even adopted Reagan’s 1980 campaign promise to “make America great again”. Like Reagan, he has shown he can appeal to evangelicals despite question marks over his religious conviction and divorces. In his ability to deflect criticism, too, Trump has shown himself as adept as Reagan – if by defiance rather than by charm – and redefined what it means to be “Teflon” in the age of Twitter.

That defiance, however, points to a huge difference in tone between Reagan’s candidacy and Trump’s. Reagan’s vision was a positive, optimistic one, even as he castigated “big government” and the perceived decline of US power. Reagan’s America was meant to be “a city upon a hill” offering a shining example of liberty to the world – in rhetoric at least. Trump’s vision is of an America closed off from the world. His rhetoric invokes fear as often as it does freedom.

On a personal level, Reagan avoided the vituperative attacks that have been the hallmark of Trump’s campaign, even as he took on the then“establishment” of the Republican Party – a moderate, urban, east coast elite. In his first run for the nomination, in 1976, Reagan even challenged an incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford, and came close to defeating him. But he mounted the challenge on policy grounds, advocating the so-called “Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump, as the TV debates between the Republican presidential candidates made clear, does not subscribe to the same precept.

More importantly, Reagan in 1976 and 1980 was the leader of a resurgent conservative movement, with deep wells of political experience. He had been president of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s, waging a campaign to root out communist infiltrators. He had gone on to work for General Electric in the 1950s as a TV pitchman and after-dinner speaker, honing a business message that resonated beyond the “rubber chicken circuit”.

In 1964 he grabbed headlines with a televised speech on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater – a bright spot in Goldwater’s otherwise ignominious campaign. Two years later he was elected governor of California – serving for eight years as chief executive of the nation’s most populous state. He built a conservative record on welfare reform, law and order, and business regulation that he pushed on to the federal agenda when he ran for president.

All this is to say that Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. By contrast, Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement – which enhanced his “outsider” status, perhaps, but not his ground game. So far, he has run on opportunism, tapping in to popular frustration, channelled through a media megaphone.

In Iowa, this wasn’t enough. To win the nomination he will have to do much more to build his organisation. He will be hoping that in the primaries to come, voters do remember who came in second. 

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war