Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
7 April 2015

Blair’s surprising agreement with Miliband on inequality

The former PM, who once said he didn't mind how much David Beckham earned, says he agrees "completely" with the Labour leader on the subject. 

By George Eaton

The most striking moment of the Q&A that followed Tony Blair’s speech on the EU came when he remarked that he agreed “completely” with what Ed Miliband was saying “about the central challenge of inequality”. Striking, because the two men have often at odds on this issue. When Miliband was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in 2003 he played his class a video of the former PM being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman during the 2001 election in which he was asked six times whether the gap between the rich and the poor mattered – and six times refused to say that it did. It was this encounter that produced Blair’s memorable declaration that “It’s not a burning ambition for me to make sure that David Beckham earns less money”. Miliband has often cited this quote as evidence of New Labour was too “relaxed” about inequality (although child poverty and pensioner poverty were significantly reduced between 1997 and 2010, the gap between the rich and poor slightly increased having widened dramatically under the Conservatives). 

Similarly notable was Blair’s response today that the party has “excellent policies” to address this issue. Since Miliband became leader Blair has made little attempt to disguise his disagreement with measures such as the reintroduction of the 50p tax rate. It’s worth noting that Blair’s comments were made in response to a question on Miliband’s stance on business. By simply replying that he agreed with him on inequality he avoided a potentially troublesome answer. But it’s also possible that Blair, like many others, now feels that the gap between the rich and poor, a side-issue during the long boom, can no longer be ignored. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Why competition is the key to customer satisfaction
High streets remain vitally important to local communities
The future of gas