The modest Miliband

He doesn’t even mind being called the wrong name.

Everyone I've talked to whose working life owes nothing to Westminster or the media has voiced reservations about how David Miliband comes across.

"Arrogant", "too sure of himself", "acts as though his interviewer is stupid" are some of the comments I've heard about the shadow foreign secretary. His younger brother, Ed, however, has produced nothing but expressions of interest (albeit sometimes quite mild interest).

The shadow energy secretary demonstrated this afternoon the modesty, almost diffidence, that makes him such a refreshing change from most of the overly cocksure New Labour luminaries.

Twice during an interview on Sky News just before 3pm, the presenter, Anna Botting, mixed him up with another of the Labour leadership contenders. "Come on, Mr Balls," she said first, a misidentification that Miliband merely ignored.

She then signed off the interview, which lasted some minutes, by thanking "Ed Balls" for appearing on the programme. In the half-second Miliband had to respond with the usual mutual thanks, he did just that, having the good grace to look slightly startled but amused, rather than cross, to be referred to by a rival's name not once but twice.

Can you imagine any of the other contenders resisting the temptation to correct the presenter in a very firm tone of voice? If I had one, Ed M would get my vote.

Sholto Byrnes is a Contributing Editor to the New Statesman
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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

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