The return of David Miliband

Former foreign secretary gives his first major interview since losing the Labour leadership to his b

Has David Miliband's rehabilitation programme begun in earnest? This morning on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he gave his first major broadcast interview since losing the Labour leadership election in September to his brother, Ed. Here are some highlights:

  • Asked about how relations were with his brother, Miliband replied gnomically: "Brothers are for life."
  • On remaining an MP: "I'm very committed to my constituency."
  • On what Ed Miliband has been saying about the "squeezed middle": "[It has] touched a chord."
  • On Labour's prospects: "We have to be economically credible." He noted, in this connection, that the French Socialists were considering choosing the current head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn as their presidential candidate next year.
  • Asked about Labour's record in office: "We must learn the right lessons of Labour in government." In other words, as he said throughout the leadership campaign, don't "trash" the record.
  • On the failure of the centre left across Europe: Miliband noted that there are centre-right governments in most of the major countries in the EU and said this is "in part because the economic terms of trade have changed. And in part because the right has got smart" and has moved on to the "centre ground".
  • On immigration: Miliband recommended that people read the recent Searchlight report on attitudes towards race and immigration in this country; he drew from it the conclusion that "immigration doesn't sit on its own", but must be understood alongside economic factors.

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.