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16 June 2010

Divided they stand

The story of David and Ed Miliband’s race to become Labour leader.

By James Macintyre

There has been a bit of interest in my piece for tomorrow’s magazine on the Miliband brothers and the leadership race, so below is a tiny taste in advance.

The main point to be made about the brothers is that both are too easily characterised by the media and their opponents, and that neither David’s “Blairite” tag nor Ed’s “Brownite” one are accurate. However, before the article comes out, here are a couple of details:

In the run-up to his surprise announcement — a “late, post-election” decision, according to a source close to the shadow energy secretary — the younger Miliband arranged a private, face-to-face meeting with his elder brother in London, the city where both had grown up. What happened at the meeting remains private and neither candidate is willing to discuss it. But, according to sources, Ed told David that he was minded to run. “I’m not going to stand in your way,” David replied . . .

“He was unfazed by Ed’s decision,” says one supporter of David. “He didn’t throw his toys out of the pram.” Friends insist that the two men, sons of the late Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband, remain close, not least for the sake of their mother, Marion Kozak, who is helping to babysit Ed’s year-old son. Nonetheless, they have been talking considerably less frequently than before Ed’s announcement . . .

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“We cannot fight this contest pandering on Iraq and Trident or we’ll be like the Tories on Europe,” one Labour MP who supports the shadow foreign secretary said . . .

. . . Ed was one of the few cabinet ministers who consistently argued that Brown should be allowed to stay on as prime minister . . . He is said to have remarked at one point last year that getting rid of the prime minister would be like “killing our father”. This position contrasts with that of David, who is said to have told friends that Labour was heading for certain defeat under Brown.

The former international development secretary Douglas Alexander, who deliberated over which Miliband to support, having formed a deep friendship with Ed as far back as 1990, emphasises to me that “David has good Labour values” . . .

. . . Another demonstration of Ed’s newfound ruthlessness has been the way in which he has wooed Labour MPs. One influential frontbencher claims Ed phoned him to ask to meet for a drink. “I told him I was backing David,” the MP tells me. “But he was adamant: ‘Let’s have a drink anyway.’ ” . . .

. . . Some suspect that Ed would find it easier to work under David than David would under Ed. Either way, senior Labour figures will be hoping that their relationship, despite being tested so early on in this campaign, will endure, for the sake of the party that both men seek to lead.

For the whole article, see the print edition of the New Statesman or this website tomorrow.