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?


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 . . .


But people have to choose between you . . .


They do and I . . .


That's the nature of the contest.


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 . . .


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


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


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


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




. . . 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.
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.