The Blairites turn their guns on Ed

Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell go on the offensive against the younger Miliband. But who will

The Blairite establishment is out in force this morning, warning variously that Ed Miliband would lead Labour into an "electoral cul-de-sac", would vacate the "centre ground" and would consign the party to years in opposition.

In an interview with the Times (£), Peter Mandelson takes a calculated swipe at the younger Miliband, declaring:

We're not looking for a preacher as our leader, we're looking for someone who has good values, strong electoral instincts and the ability to put in place a winning strategy. We're a political party, not a church.

Miliband's warning that the party must move out of the "New Labour comfort zone" also seems to have touched a nerve:

I think David started pulling away from the field of other candidates in a recent speech in which he set out what he thinks and what he believes. I think that his brother Ed . . . is wrong when he describes new Labour as a comfort zone. On the contrary, it was about some difficult choices and some tough decisions on policy. There was nothing comfortable about many of the issues we had to face up to.

He doesn't personally endorse David but it's clear that he views the elder Miliband as the outstanding candidate. Elsewhere, Alastair Campbell, who previously claimed that Ed would make the party "feel OK about losing", writes on his blog that the younger Miliband "would take Labour significantly leftwards and leave even more of the centre ground open to the Tories".

Still to come is the launch of Tony Blair's memoir on Wednesday, an occasion that may see Blair publicly disclose his private view that Miliband would be a "disaster" for the party.

With just days to go until ballots are sent out to party members, David is likely to be in two minds about this latest development. The elder Miliband has worked hard to shed the crude "Blairite" label that still attaches itself to him, but many in the party, faced with Mandelson, will deem Miliband guilty by association. Conversely, Blair himself remains significantly more popular among Labour members than he is with the public at large. His intervention could yet prove decisive.

As for Ed, whom the New Statesman endorsed as Labour leader last week, he can feel justly frustrated that senior figures in the party have failed to engage with his sophisticated and well-meant critique of New Labour. The psephological reality is that Labour has lost five million votes since 1997, only a million of which went to the Tories. It will not win them back by playing the same old Blairite tunes.

The best of New Labour -- its reforming spirit, its sensitivity to public opinion, its political prescience -- is today reflected in Ed Miliband's campaign.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.