It was only yesterday that a senior tabloid political commentator was telling me how he couldn’t wait for Ed Miliband to win the Labour leadership election. “David would be a disappointment from our point of view,” he said.
His argument was as follows: Not only would Mili-E be easy to caricature as “Red Ed”, slave to the unions and champion of unreconstructed lefty-ism. It would also be a human story of the less experienced younger brother committing fratricide against Britain’s level-headed former foreign secretary. And lastly he would – the theory went – not necessarily have the majority support of his own MPs.
(Kevin Maguire at the Mirror has also made the latter point on his blog).
It may sound brutal, but Westminster often is. (A successful Mili-E must expect the same treatment at the hands of the Tory machine). You could also argue it is unfair given that on some issues there isn’t an obvious difference between the brothers.
For example David wants a higher banking tax, a high pay commission, a mansion tax and so on. Where he has set out a different stall is a] his more middle-ground rhetoric, b] his refusal to promise to joining anti-cuts rallies c] his refusal to apologise for Iraq d] his more firm commitment to Alistair Darling’s deficit reduction programme and e] his sticking to New Labour’s (not very liberal) policies on CCTV, ID cards and so on.
Both brothers are committed to the central principles of union rights, a distributive tax system and a fiscal tightening which falls far short of the coalition’s plan.
But Her Majesty’s Press usually prefer black & white to subtle nuance.
Another hack told me weeks ago that Ed had tacked wildly to the left with his socialist policy agenda. Such as what, I asked? “Well, I don’t really know,” he admitted. “Does it matter?” Such is the reality of the Westminster village.
UPDATE: A member of the shadow cabinet tells me he is astonished that Vince Cable could get away with the language in today’s speech, in which says that unbridled capitalism “kills competition” and breeds unfairness. “If one of us went out and said that we would be utterly destroyed,” he points out.
Further UPDATE (3pm): Friends of Ed Miliband point out that he doesn’t back his brother’s mansion tax nor his tax on private schooling.