Ed Miliband is expecting a happy event – but Alastair Campbell puts the boot in

Labour leadership candidate's partner gives him some good news, while Blair's old spin-doctor dishes out the dirt on him and his rivals
Click to follow
Indy Politics

The family theme to Labour's leadership contest took a fresh twist last night as it emerged that Ed Miliband is to become a father for the second time later this year.

Mr Miliband's partner, Justine Thornton, is due to give birth in November, friends of Labour's climate change spokesman revealed to The Independent on Sunday. The couple already have a son, Daniel, who will turn one this week.

The news emerged as Mr Miliband's brother, David, the frontrunner in the race to succeed Gordon Brown, challenged his rivals to a live TV debate, similar to the contests that dominated the general election campaign. The foreign affairs spokesman said the debate would re-engage the public with the party after widespread disillusionment at the election.

While there is no suggestion that Ed Miliband is planning to use his new status as an expectant father to boost his campaign, it could nevertheless give him the edge among MPs and activists. It would also mean that, if he won the contest – due to be decided in September – both he and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, would be expectant fathers, as Samantha Cameron is due to give birth to the Camerons' fourth child in October. David Miliband is already a father of two boys.

Yet both Miliband brothers have been ridiculed in some quarters as "policy wonks" who lack a human side. Alastair Campbell's diaries, which are published in unedited form this week, include unkind comments about the brothers during their time as aides to Tony Blair and Mr Brown respectively during the 1990s.

In Prelude to Power, volume one of the former spin-doctor's memoirs, covering the years 1994 to 1997, Mr Campbell says on 14 June 1995: "I kept pressing Ed Miliband to explain our economic message in a nutshell, and what came out every time was an essay that went over my head and which also seemed to change every time I asked it." Of his brother, Mr Campbell says on 29 June 1995 that David Miliband "kept defaulting to these policy wonk words that I found impenetrable".

However, supporters of Ed Balls, who on Friday became the third candidate to secure the required 33 nominations to run, had most cause for concern from the newly published diaries.

Mr Campbell includes several scathing comments about Mr Balls, who at the time was chief adviser to Mr Brown. On 26 April 1995, after a meeting on economic strategy in which Mr Balls "drivelled on endlessly", Mr Campbell records that Mr Blair said afterwards he "only wanted grown-ups to attend his meetings".

Referring to Mr Balls's "extraordinary manner", on 19 June 1995, Mr Campbell says the Brownite "hovered between irritating and rude" to Mr Blair. Mr Balls was also "full of bile" about the then Labour leader on 16 July 1996, the diaries reveal. And on 6 November 1996, Mr Campbell says: "Ed Balls spoke drivel, a never-ending collection of words that just ran into each other and became devoid of meaning."

At one point, in November 1996, six months before Labour won the election, Mr Blair said that he would advise Mr Brown not to take Mr Balls or Charlie Whelan, his press secretary, into government because they "gave him bad advice and made him less popular" in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Although the anecdotes refer to events more than a decade ago and the rivalry between the Brown and Blair camps is well documented, they will do little to change the impression among some MPs and party members that Mr Balls is tribal and uncollegiate.

David Miliband has written to fellow contenders, who also include Andy Burnham, the health spokesman, and the backbenchers Diane Abbott and John McDonnell – none of whom has yet gained enough nominations to run – asking them to take part in a live TV debate.

The shadow Foreign Secretary said yesterday: "This leadership election must be a credit to the Labour Party. It should also be our chance to re-engage the public so we can both understand why we lost but also to show how we will win back their trust."

It is believed that all contenders are already in discussion with broadcasters about a TV debate. An aide to Ed Miliband said: "We welcome TV debates and are already in discussions about when and how they happen."

An aide to Mr Balls said he had already said yes in principle to broadcasters, adding: "They're a good thing and we're looking forward to them."

Meanwhile, Mr Balls's wife, Yvette Cooper, attacked Mr Cameron for his "shocking, sexist remark" when he described the contest as "two brothers and a man who stopped his wife from standing".

Ms Cooper, the spokeswoman on work and pensions, one of the brightest female talents in the Labour Party, denied she was not standing to give her husband a clear run and said that having three children under 11 played a part in her decision. She wrote in The Guardian: "It isn't a sign of weakness or betrayal of women to admit it. Ed, always my strongest supporter, said he'd back me and stand aside if I wanted to run. But this isn't the right time for me – and that wouldn't change whether Ed was standing or not."

Behind the scenes in Downing Street: A glimpse into Alastair Campbell's diaries

Tony Blair thought Princess Diana was "very manipulative": Saturday 20 May 1995 (en route to Sue Nye's 40th birthday with Tony and Cherie Blair and his partner Fiona Millar):

"In the car we talked about Diana, TB and I doing our best to wind them [Cherie and Fiona] up by going on about how unbelievably gorgeous she was. TB said she was very manipulative and determined."

Tony Blair protests he "never laid a finger" on Carole Caplin: Monday 19 June 1995 (AC tackled Mr Blair about his wife's friend and adviser):

"I told TB I thought she [Carole Caplin] was a time bomb and he should have nothing to do with her. He said he knew my views and there was no way she was going to be back like she'd been before, but she was helping Cherie, and he did exercise with her on Friday....

"I said there was a real danger if people knew he was working out with her when CB was not around, that they'd start chattering about something going on between them, and it would be a grim rumour to deal with. He said, that is ridiculous, I've never laid a finger on her."

Cherie Blair would "shoot Gordon" if she could: Wednesday 18 May 1994 (the Blair camp was waiting for Gordon Brown to stand aside for the leadership):

"I called CB who sounded very down. She joked that if she could shoot Gordon she would, as it must be obvious to him by now that he's not going to get it.... I called TB later. I don't know how many times he said it was a nightmare. Lots."

Peter Mandelson on Alastair Campbell: Thursday 21 July 1994 (Tony Blair was confirmed as leader of the Labour Party and was looking for a press secretary):

"Peter called to discuss the press secretary's job... He said what about you? That is who he wants. I said I'd love to in many ways, but the salary cut was a bit severe and I would really worry about never seeing the children. 'Mmmm,' he said, 'and then there's your temper.'"

Comments