David Miliband and Murdoch

Could an inquiry into the tycoon's past relationship with Downing Street provide the boost Miliband'

With the latest poll giving Ed Milband a marginal 51-49 lead over his brother, it isn't getting any clearer who is going to become Labour leader in 12 days' time.

What is clear, however, is that the onus is now on David Miliband's campaign to deliver a game-changing moment that will secure his victory.

Accurate polling for this contest is incredibly hard to come by owing to the complexity of the voting system, but the arresting figure from this YouGov/Sunday Times poll is that on first preferences, David leads Ed by four points. Like Harriet Harman before him, if Ed wins this, it's going to be down to the second preferences.

To return to David, and his need to manufacture a defining moment that will swing the contest back in his favour. Just as Ed has increased his emphasis on "moving beyond the New Labour comfort zone" in the past few weeks, David also needs to refine his stance on the Blairite legacy and find a way to appease those who still feel like he should have clarified his position on Iraq earlier in the contest, rather than just attempting to shift the focus of the campaign away from the war.

But an opportunity could be at hand, in the shape of the row over phone-hacking at the News of the World. Matthew Norman, in his media diary column in the Independent today, suggests that David could "clinch it" by pledging to call for an inquiry into the relationship between New Labour and the Murdoch empire.

In his somewhat tongue-in-cheek way, Norman offers various examples of the intimacy between the Blair coterie and News International. But amusing as those vignettes are, I can't help feeling he could be on to something serious here.

There can be no doubt that both Parliament and the public are outraged about the revelations that Andy Coulson, disgraced former editor of the News of the World, now occupies a senior position in Downing Street. Two Parliamentary enquiries and an impassioned series of questions in the House tell their own story. And as my colleague James Macintyre has pointed out, there are deeper issues of the relationship between Murdoch's newspapers and the police to be considered, too.

Perhaps this is just the issue that David Miliband needs to give his campaign that final boost. It enables him to distance himself from Blair and New Labour without really changing his stance on any specific policy issues, while at the same time demonstrating leadership on a contentious issue that has a lot of media traction at the moment. It would also have the added benefit of disarming those New Labour grandees who saw fit to intrude into the contest at the end of last month.

With the contest this close, such a gesture could just make all the difference.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear