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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Former Irish premier John Bruton on Brexit: "Britain should pay for our border checks"

The former Taoiseach says Brexit has been interpreted as "a profoundly unfriendly act"

At Kapıkule, on the Turkish border with Bulgaria, the queue of lorries awaiting clearance to enter European Union territory can extend as long as 17km. Despite Turkey’s customs union for goods with the bloc, hauliers can spend up to 30 hours clearing a series of demanding administrative hoops. This is the nightmare keeping former Irish premier John Bruton up at night. Only this time, it's the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and it's much, much worse.   

Bruton (pictured below), Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997, is an ardent pro-European and was historically so sympathetic to Britain that, while in office, he was pilloried as "John Unionist" by his rivals. But he believes, should she continue her push for a hard Brexit, that Theresa May's promise for a “seamless, frictionless border” is unattainable. 

"A good example of the sort of thing that might arise is what’s happening on the Turkish-Bulgarian border," the former leader of Ireland's centre-right Fine Gael party told me. “The situation would be more severe in Ireland, because the UK proposes to leave the customs union as well."

The outlook for Ireland looks grim – and a world away from the dynamism of the Celtic Tiger days Bruton’s coalition government helped usher in. “There will be all sorts of problems," he said. "Separate permits for truck drivers operating across two jurisdictions, people having to pay for the right to use foreign roads, and a whole range of other issues.” 

Last week, an anti-Brexit protest on the border in Killeen, County Louth, saw mock customs checks bring traffic to a near standstill. But, so far, the discussion around what the future looks like for the 260 border crossings has focused predominantly on its potential effects on Ulster’s fragile peace. Last week Bruton’s successor as Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, warned “any sort of physical border” would be “bad for the peace process”. 

Bruton does not disagree, and is concerned by what the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights might mean for the Good Friday Agreement. But he believes the preoccupation with the legacy of violence has distracted British policymakers from the potentially devastating economic impact of Brexit. “I don’t believe that any serious thought was given to the wider impact on the economy of the two islands as a whole," he said. 

The collapse in the pound has already hit Irish exporters, for whom British sales are worth £15bn. Businesses that work across the border could yet face the crippling expense of duplicating their operations after the UK leaves the customs union and single market. This, he says, will “radically disturb” Ireland’s agriculture and food-processing industries – 55 per cent of whose products are sold to the UK. A transitional deal will "anaesthetise" people to the real impact, he says, but when it comes, it will be a more seismic change than many in London are expecting. He even believes it would be “logical” for the UK to cover the Irish government’s costs as it builds new infrastructure and employs new customs officials to deal with the new reality.

Despite his past support for Britain, the government's push for a hard Brexit has clearly tested Bruton's patience. “We’re attempting to unravel more than 40 years of joint work, joint rule-making, to create the largest multinational market in the world," he said. It is not just Bruton who is frustrated. The British decision to "tear that up", he said, "is regarded, particularly by people in Ireland, as a profoundly unfriendly act towards neighbours".

Nor does he think Leave campaigners, among them the former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, gave due attention to the issue during the campaign. “The assurances that were given were of the nature of: ‘Well, it’ll be alright on the night!’," he said. "As if the Brexit advocates were in a position to give any assurances on that point.” 

Indeed, some of the more blimpish elements of the British right believe Ireland, wedded to its low corporate tax rates and east-west trade, would sooner follow its neighbour out of the EU than endure the disruption. Recent polling shows they are likely mistaken: some 80 per cent of Irish voters say they would vote to remain in an EU referendum.

Irexit remains a fringe cause and Bruton believes, post-Brexit, Dublin will have no choice but to align itself more closely with the EU27. “The UK is walking away,” he said. “This shift has been imposed upon us by our neighbour. Ireland will have to do the best it can: any EU without Britain is a more difficult EU for Ireland.” 

May, he says, has exacerbated those difficulties. Her appointment of her ally James Brokenshire as secretary of state for Northern Ireland was interpreted as a sign she understood the role’s strategic importance. But Bruton doubts Ireland has figured much in her biggest decisions on Brexit: “I don’t think serious thought was given to this before her conference speech, which insisted on immigration controls and on no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. Those two decisions essentially removed the possibility for Ireland and Britain to work together as part of the EEA or customs union – and were not even necessitated by the referendum decision.”

There are several avenues for Britain if it wants to avert the “voluntary injury” it looks set to inflict to Ireland’s economy and its own. One, which Bruton concedes is unlikely, is staying in the single market. He dismisses as “fanciful” the suggestions that Northern Ireland alone could negotiate European Economic Area membership, while a poll on Irish reunification is "only marginally" more likely. 

The other is a variation on the Remoaners’ favourite - a second referendum should Britain look set to crash out on World Trade Organisation terms without a satisfactory deal. “I don’t think a second referendum is going to be accepted by anybody at this stage. It is going to take a number of years,” he said. “I would like to see the negotiation proceed and for the European Union to keep the option of UK membership on 2015 terms on the table. It would be the best available alternative to an agreed outcome.” 

As things stand, however, Bruton is unambiguous. Brexit means the Northern Irish border will change for the worse. “That’s just inherent in the decision the UK electorate was invited to take, and took – or rather, the UK government took in interpreting the referendum.”