David Miliband attacks Blair, Brown . . . and his brother, Ed?

Some so-far unreported extracts from tonight’s speech.

Below are some extracts that haven't been trailed from David Miliband's major leadership campaign speech this evening.

On Blair and Brown:

Tony and Gordon did great things. Really great things. But I know that in Tony's time, he did not focus on income inequalities, stopped devolution at Scotland and Wales when we should have carried it on and too often defined himself against the party, not against the Tories.

Gordon was wrong about the 10p rate and wrong-footed in debates about the role of the state and the importance of crime and security as Labour issues. Both of them underestimated the extent to which the problems of the British economy had not been resolved by the 1980s.

Interpretation: this is a significant break from Blair -- though some who want David to go further will be disappointed that he does not mention Iraq -- but it is worth noting that the line about Blair defining himself against Labour is the same as that which Ed Miliband has been saying for some time.

On why Miliband is standing and why doing so "requires clarity about the conditions for success and a reconciliation with the chance of failure", as well as his "absolute determination to protect those that you do love":

This is the sense of responsibility that motivates me. It brought me into the Labour Party 27 years ago, idealistic and open-minded, when our prospects seemed bleak. It made me support John Smith in the search for new ideas after 1992. It made me run for parliament in 2001. It made me turn down a big job in world politics last November. And it has made me stand for the leadership of our party today.

Still idealistic and open-minded about what we can achieve together.

It is a big decision to stand for the leadership. It requires clarity about the conditions for success and a reconciliation with the chance of failure. It asks a lot of the people you love; and an absolute determination to protect those that you do love.

For me, it is about understanding the time and place to take responsibility. Now is such a time.

Interpretation: David is emphasising that he is ready in a way he hasn't been before (when he was urged to challenge Brown), but this could be seen as questioning whether Ed is ready, and the passage about the impact of standing -- including on the people you love -- could also be seen, rightly or wrongly, as a dig at Ed.

On why his politics are about so much more than "dinner parties":

I was born in 1965.

It was a time of recovery but also vulnerability. For my family, the shadow of the Holocaust was still much, much stronger than it seems today.

London, that "Mansion House of Liberty", to quote John Milton, this great city, did not give us dinner parties; it gave us life.

Leeds, where I spent a formative part of my childhood and my dad was a teacher of politics, did not give us political theory; it gave us the middle-class Middle Britain security that comes from being part of a strong community, where you put in but you got out, too.

Labour helped shape that postwar period of security and opportunity. And a strong, renewed, reorganised Labour Party is vital to the future of our country today.

Interpretation: perhaps the most powerful passage, this totally rebuts the slur from the Milibands' rivals that they are merely "dinner-party" politicians.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.