David Miliband shows that he’s no Blairite

Labour leadership front-runner backs a series of left-wing policies in Guardian article.

David Miliband has a noteworthy piece in today's Guardian, arguing for a series of left-wing, progressive policies as an alternative to drastic spending cuts. It should lay to rest the misleading and unfair claim that Miliband is a "Blairite".

Here is a breakdown of the policies he advocates:

- Ending charitable status for private schools.

- Extending the bankers' bonus tax rather than raising VAT.

- Supporting the mansion tax on £2m houses.

- The introduction of a international transaction tax -- the so-called Robin Hood tax.

- Reducing the deficit through a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax rises. The Tories propose a 4:1 split.

Diane Abbott's presence in the Labour leadership race has shifted the contest to the left and Miliband's piece must be interpreted as a response to that. He is keenly aware that in order to win and to unite the party he must win over many of the centre-left members who at present favour alternative candidates, not least his brother.

Then again, the description of Miliband as a "Blairite" has always been a lazy journalistic shorthand. Many know that he served as head of the No 10 Policy Unit during the Blair years, far fewer that he left because he was considered insufficiently reformist. In an interview with the NS editor, Jason Cowley, he memorably spoke of the "red thread" that should run through Labour policy.

It was also Miliband, as my colleague James Macintyre recalls this week, who led cabinet opposition to Israel's bombardment of Lebanon.

I doubt that Miliband's left-wing pitch will assuage figures such as Derek Simpson who, with typical eloquence, described Miliband as "thick" and a "Tory". But it may lead some members to think again. If he is to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Miliband must hope as much.

Special subscription offer: Get 12 issues for £12 plus a free copy of Andy Beckett's "When the Lights Went Out".

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.