Mystery over Ed Balls’s claim that the Miliband brothers are briefing against one another

Difference between accounts in Total Politics and the Sun.

Earlier, I mentioned that Ed Balls had accused David and Ed Miliband of briefing against each other, saying:

Between the brothers there has been a little bit of off-the-record briefing going on. Hopefully, the two of them will say to their supporters to stop it. It is pretty unedifying.

Now, it appears there is something of a mystery surrounding the fascinating interview, which is by Amber Elliott, political editor of Total Politics. The piece is officially under embargo until tomorrow, so I won't reproduce it here (I have read it, though, and I recommend that others do so when it's out).

However, the Sun received some of the words from the interview in advance, and reported it thus today:

THE Miliband brothers are waging a bitching war against each other as they battle for the Labour leadership, another rival has revealed.

Ed Miliband's supporters have been slagging off his brother David's "eccentric personality".

And David's fans are mocking Ed's "dodgy decision-making", according to former Education Secretary Ed Balls, who is also in the running.

In a plea to the other candidates to keep it clean, Mr Balls told Total Politics magazine: "Between the brothers there has been a little bit of off-the-record briefing going on.

"Hopefully, the two of them will say to their supporters to stop it. I think it is pretty unedifying."

Seizing the moral high ground, he added: "There will be no off-the-record briefings from anybody involved with me." His revelation is likely to provoke fury among rank-and-file party members. Labour's 13 years in power were plagued by cabinet ministers feuding behind the scenes -- speeding its downfall at the polls last month.

What is odd is that the "dodgy decision-making" and "eccentric personality" lines are not in the text of Elliott's piece. So, where did they come from? A source close to Ed Balls is adamant that they did not come from him. Perhaps the paper can explain.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.