Tuesday 11 May 2010

Why Ed Miliband and his brother David should both stand for leader

With Labour now leaving office, I continue to think that a longer timetable for the leadership contest would be a very good idea - especially as a fairly stable new government looks likely.

Ed Miliband kicks off our Next Left post-election conference on Saturday, to kick off our debates about Labour's future, and a constructive inquest about what we've learnt in power.

I don't know whether he plans to run for the leadership - though one reads in the newspapers that he has told his mother he will think about it. So I wouldn't expect we will have an announcement by Saturday either.

But is it possible for two brothers to contest the leadership against each other?

I think it would be a healthy and good thing, and not only because Next Left specialises in comparative Milibandism. Here are three reasons.

1. The Labour Party needs an open and frank debate about its record and future. We need to show that this can be done in a fraternal and not a fratricidal way.

The Miliband brothers are among those candidates likely to help to establish that tone - though an important challenge for all candidates will be who has something distinctive to say about Labour's future vision and argument.

So two Milibands would be fine - though the party will certainly want a wider range of candidates too!

2. The fair life chances principle dictates that our opportunities should not be dictated by the circumstances of your birth. It would be unfair to rule out either Miliband from considering their options - just as a Balls, Cooper, Harman, Burnham or Cruddas can - simply because a brother was running.

3. Labour uses transferable votes (AV) to elect its leader in the electoral college. Candidates do have to compete for nominations, but there is no tactical voting dilemma about a split Milibandite vote, or indeed about the "two Eds are better than one" competition between Eds Balls and Miliband,

I suspect one consolation of competing against a brother would be that each Miliband might think that they were well placed to capture one Parliamentary one second preference from a rival candidate.

(And I haven't heard anybody argue for a first-past-the-post leadership contest, as everybody seems to think it is a good idea for winners to need majority support. This is a good principle that could be extended to the electorate at large!)

PS: So please take that as an endorsement of the most open debate and the widest possible field. I have no fixed view before we start about my own vote - whether between Milibands or the wide range of other possible candidates. Collective responsibility means we have not heard any potential candidates' views on Labour's record and future.

Fabian members will be ballotted, as we are an affiliated society: we will not take a collective position, as members will want to decide for themselves. But I am sure we shall hear more about and from all of them in the weeks and months ahead.

1 comment:

Robert said...

So from New Labour to Newer labour with the Milibands, seems we just never learn.