Exclusive: David Miliband boosted by fresh endorsement

David Lammy, chair of Ken Livingstone’s mayoral campaign and influential black MP who nominated Dian

David Miliband today receives a significant boost to his campaign for the Labour leadership with the endorsement of the influential black MP David Lammy.

Lammy, MP for Tottenham, is highly respected by London's ethnic-minority communities and about a third of all Labour Party members are based in and around the capital city. Lammy was also recently appointed by Ken Livingstone as chair of the former mayor's campaign for re-election in London.

In what sources say will be David Miliband's final major endorsement, Lammy will introduce the former foreign secretary to a congregation of about 200 black people at the Freedom's Arc church in Tottenham, north London, at 7pm this evening. Presiding over the service and event will be Pastor Nims Obunge, who is responsible for London's main anti-knife-crime initiative.

Lammy nominated Diane Abbott so she could become the first black figure to stand for a British political party leadership, but -- like Jon Cruddas, who also nominated Abbott -- has decided to back David Miliband for the job of leader itself. Miliband's supporters this morning said that support from the two MPs underlines the idea of their man as a "unity candidate" who can appeal to white working-class people as well as ethnic minorities.

Writing exclusively for newstatesman.com, Lammy argues that David Miliband has the "vision" to change the Labour Party and lead it to victory. Lammy refers to the need for Labour to avoid its "comfort zone" -- the now-controversial expression over which the Miliband brothers are battling, with Ed Miliband claiming that it is the "New Labour comfort zone" that must be shed. A source close to Lammy says he is friends with both David and Ed Miliband and has spoken to them during the campaign but, in the end, decided -- like Douglas Alexander -- to opt for David.

Lammy compares Miliband's campaign with that of Barack Obama, who mobilised his volunteer force to help in US communities. "Already [Miliband] has trained 1,000 community organisers as part of his campaign. In time, they will help communities speak with one voice about the things that matter to them," Lammy says.

He explains: "I nominated Diane Abbott because I wanted that debate to have as many voices as possible. Three months on, we have reached decision time. The question is which of the candidates can forge a credible and inspiring new project for the left . . . David offers a vision of people enjoying politics again, feeling proud to be in the Labour Party."

The former education minister goes on: "David offers the hope of a genuinely new political project. This means more than a shopping list of promises to different interest groups. Such a politics can appeal, but never stands the test of time. Instead, David promises a new direction."

Lammy offers his own critique of New Labour in government, especially on civil liberties and the economy, and adds: "David offers change because he understands that a new economic model doesn't just mean more regulation of the banks; it means a market economy built on the values of mutuality, reciprocity and local decision-making. He gets that people should be able to make decisions together as citizens, not just be treated as consumers."

He concludes: "For this vision alone I would support David. But there is one more vital thing that he will change: our habit of retreating in a comfort zone in opposition -- and staying there while the Tories do great damage to our country's social fabric. The people who depend on us cannot afford us to do this again. They need us to hold the government to account and to provide a credible and exciting alternative. In David Miliband we have one. I, for one, will be voting for him."

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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This election has sparked a weird debate – one in which no one seems to want to talk

 The noise level hasn’t risen above a low gurgle in the background.

If this is a general election in which the tectonic plates are shifting, they’re the quietest tectonic plates I’ve ever heard. All the parties are standing on pretty radical platforms, yet the noise level hasn’t risen above a low gurgle in the background, like a leaking tap we can’t be bothered to get fixed.

Big issues are being decided here. How do we pay for care, or health, or education? How do we square closed borders with open trade, and why isn’t anyone talking about it? Democracy is on the line, old people are being treated like electoral fodder, our infrastructure is mangled, the NHS is collapsing around us so fast that soon all that’s left will be one tin of chicken soup and a handful of cyanide capsules, and we face the prospect of a one-party Tory state for decades to come. All this and yet . . . silence. There seem to be no shouts of anger in this election. It’s a woozy, sleepy affair.

I knew something was afoot the moment it was called. Theresa May came out of No 10 and said she was having an election because she was fed up with other parties voting against her. No one seemed to want to stand up and tell her that’s a pretty good definition of how functioning democracy works. Basically, she scolded parliament for not going along with her.

Why were we not stunned by the sheer autocratic cheek of the moment? With news outlets, true and fake, growing in number by the day, why was this creeping despotism not reported? Am I the only one in a state of constant flabbergast?

But the Prime Minister’s move paid off. “Of course,” everyone said, “the real argument will now take place across the country, and we welcome,” they assured us, “the chance to have a national debate.”

Well, it’s a pretty weird debate – one in which no one wants to talk. So far, the only person May has debated live on air has been her husband, as Jeremy Corbyn still wanders the country like an Ancient Mariner, signalling to everyone he meets that he will not speak to anyone unless that person is Theresa May. Campaign events have been exercises in shutting down argument, filtering out awkward questions, and speaking only to those who agree with every word their leader says.

Then came the loud campaign chants – “Strong and stable” versus “The system’s rigged against us” – but these got repeated so often that, like any phrase yelled a thousand times, the sense soon fell out of them. Party leaders might as well have mooned at each other from either side of a river.

Granted, some others did debate, but they carried no volume. The Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall, achieved what no one thought possible, by showing the country that Nigel Farage had stature. And there’s a special, silent hell where Tim Farron languishes, his argument stifled at every turn by a media bent on quizzing him on what sort of hell he believes in.

Meanwhile, the party manifestos came out, with titles not so much void of meaning as so bored of it that they sounded like embarrassed whispers. Forward, Together; The Many Not the Few; Change Britain’s Future: these all have the shape and rhythm of political language, but nothing startles them into life. They are not so much ­clarion calls as dusty stains on old vellum. Any loosely connected words will do: Building My Tomorrow or Squaring the Hypotenuse would be equally valid. I still pray for the day when, just for once, a party launches its campaign with something like Because We’re Not Animals! but I realise that’s always going to stay a fantasy.

Maybe because this is the third national vote in as many years, our brains are starting to cancel out the noise. We really need something to wake us up from this torpor – for what’s happening now is a huge transformation of the political scene, and one that we could be stuck with for the next several decades if we don’t shake ourselves out of bed and do something about it.

This revolution came so quietly that no one noticed. Early on in the campaign, Ukip and the Conservatives formed a tacit electoral pact. This time round, Ukip isn’t standing in more than 200 seats, handing Tory candidates a clear run against their opponents in many otherwise competitive constituencies. So, while the left-of-centre is divided, the right gets its act together and looks strong. Tory votes have been artificially suppressed by the rise of Ukip over the past few elections – until it won 12.6 per cent of the electorate in 2015. With the collapse of the Ukip vote, and that party no longer putting up a fight in nearly a third of constituencies, Theresa May had good reason to stride about the place as cockily as she did before the campaign was suspended because of the Manchester outrage.

That’s why she can go quiet, and that’s why she can afford to roam into the centre ground, with some policies stolen from Ed Miliband (caps on energy bill, workers on company boards) and others from Michael Foot (spending commitments that aren’t costed). But that is also why she can afford to move right on immigration and Brexit. It’s why she feels she can go north, and into Scotland and Wales. It’s a full-blooded attempt to get rid of that annoying irritant of democracy: opposition.

Because May’s opponents are not making much of this land-grab, and because the media seem too preoccupied with the usual daily campaign gaffes and stammering answers from underprepared political surrogates, it falls once again to the electorate to shout their disapproval.

More than two million new voters have registered since the election was announced. Of these, large numbers are the under-25s. Whether this will be enough to cause any psephological upsets remains to be seen. But my hope is that those whom politicians hope to keep quiet are just beginning to stir. Who knows, we might yet hear some noise.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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