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Labour Leaders Chatter

August 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm / by

Recently I attended one of the many hustings for the next Labour leader. My initial thought was whether I was looking at Labour’s version of Westlife (plus one). My second thought was that I really want to attend the next family lunch at the Miliband household. (They only live in Camden so it won’t be a long trek for me!)

Memorable moments of the hustings included Diane Abbott’s impassioned speech where she posed herself as the ‘turn the page’ candidate and the only politician on the platform who had voted against the Iraq War. Ed Balls spent a while outlining how his wife, another Labour politician, shouldn’t have to justify why she wasn’t standing instead of him. Interesting but doth he protest too much?

At the post-hustings drinks, some described Andy Burnham as the dark horse with potential. His references to Billy Bragg and the impact these hustings are having on his World Cup schedule gave him something of the human touch. His line about making politics less London-centric provoked a series of tweets including one girl who proudly declared that Andy Burnham had officially ‘warmed her Lancashire heart.’

But the McDougall brothers (remember them?) of this Labour X-Factor show, without a shadow of doubt, are the Mili-brothers. My inner geek is having a field day analysing this Sophocles Greek tragedy-esque battle of the brothers. Did they ever think while they were getting dressed for their school play in our very own Haverstock School that they would one day be competing to run the Labour Party and perhaps eventually the country?

Jeremy Paxman obviously took great pleasure in a recent Newsnight hustings by patronisingly quipping ‘let your brother have a go David’ to Ed. Oh how many times that must have been said by Mummy Miliband during ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos’ (or more likely Daddy’s Das Kapital)nBut aside from sharing the same surname and a famous political scientist father, what differentiates the brothers?

David delivered powerful rhetoric about how we can’t spend our time trying to dream of a better yesterday because we need to concentrate on a better tomorrow. Recently, he has called for the government to withdraw charitable status from private schools.

Turning to lil’ Miliband, I liked the fact that when asked about the biggest lesson of the last 13 years, Ed acknowledged that the Labour Party ran into difficulties when it lost a sense of direction and purpose; when it became more like a party of managers than idealists. He despaired that Labour became less focused on taking big decisions based on its core values, whether that was bankers bonuses, social housing or protecting people’s conditions at work.

Ed’s confession that Labour politicians became technocrats and lost their willingness to change made me sigh with relief. He admitted that as a result, by the time of this election, people didn’t know what Labour stood for. Yes spot on Ed! Music to my ears!

Call me a sucker but I really liked his repetition of fairness and how it is at the heart of the Labour Party’s mission. He reinforced his support for a long-term 50p tax rate and promoted his campaign for a living wage of more than £7 an hour. In response to a question on Iraq, he said although he wasn’t a Member of Parliament during Iraq, he knows it was a catastrophic blunder on Labour’s part. His reference to the importance of local government and the necessity to devolve more power to local authorities resonated strongly with my own interests. As did his continuous focus on environmental issues.

Or perhaps I just have a soft spot for younger siblings, being one myself. It’s a tough life always having to eat the leftovers you know!

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This article was originally published on the Total Politics website.

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