Union votes crucial in narrowest of wins for Ed Miliband

Fresh epoch for party begins as younger brother's victory seals end of New Labour

By Matt Chorley,John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Wednesday 23 September 2015 10:54

It could barely have been closer. Ed Miliband's election as the 17th leader of the Labour Party went down to the wire, his victory over his elder brother, David, all the more painful because it was by such a slender margin. Just 50.65 per cent to 49.35 per cent.

Despite ending his brother's long-held dream of leading his party, Ed Miliband's reliance on trade union votes to overcome David's support from Labour MPs and party members threatens to perpetuate the struggle between the two wings of the party.

Severing ties with the Blair-Brown era, Mr Miliband pledged to "turn the page" in Labour's history books to mobilise hundreds of thousands of young people to his party's cause. "A new generation has stepped forward to serve our party, and in time I hope to serve our country. Today, the work of the new generation begins."

To the repeated refrain of "I get it", he insisted he understood why Labour lost in May, including voters' concerns about immigration, pay and housing.

As the younger son of the Marxist writer Ralph Miliband, Ed has finally broken free of his brother's shadow, having followed a similar path to the heart of the Labour Party and the top of government. Former teachers at Haverstock School in north London more easily recall the elder Miliband, to whom Ed was always compared.

At work, both were policy-wonks who moved seamlessly from the back-rooms of government to safe Labour seats and into the Cabinet itself – all of this under the tutelage of a prime minister. For David, Tony Blair was his tutor. For Ed, Gordon Brown. Perversely, it was the elder brother's association with the more successful Labour leader that attracted the most negative attention.

During the four-month leadership contest, Ed, who became an MP only in 2005, was criticised for distancing himself from Labour's record, notably on the Iraq war, tuition fees and a third runway at Heathrow. He stood up to the criticism of Lord Mandelson while firing his own shots at Tony Blair's record.

In his first speech as leader yesterday, he acknowledged the damage caused by a seemingly interminable contest: "I have to unify this party and I will. I am going to show that I understand the need to change."

He paid tribute to the leadership of both Mr Blair and Mr Brown, the latter re-emerging on to the political stage for the first time since leaving No 10 with a typically understated speech to the Manchester conference hall.

In his own speech, Mr Miliband added: "I recognise, above all, the scale of the journey on which we must embark to win back your trust."

It is a journey that so easily might not have been his. Three times David Miliband had the chance to challenge for the party leadership: in 2007 when Mr Blair stood down; in 2008 when he appeared to challenge Mr Brown's leadership in a Guardian article; and earlier this year when Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon launched an abortive coup. Three times he shied away at the last moment. By the time he went for it, his brother, four years his junior, was ready to join the ranks of David Cameron and Nick Clegg – with whom he joined the Commons – as the more youthful outsider who overtakes the early favourite.

Shaking off his closeness to Mr Brown's election defeat – and his part in writing the party's manifesto – Ed's success can in part be credited to his celebrated ability to "speak human", which for all his poise and experience, his brother was never quite able to match. In the relative comfort of the battle to become leader, Ed has rarely come under pressure. Brotherly love prevented the "gloves coming off", despite what some headlines said.

Yet the battle with the coalition began in earnest last night, with the Tories issuing an immediate challenge for him to "own up to his role in creating the mess that Britain is in and tell us what he'd do to fix it". No 10 sources stressed that there were "no whoops of delight" at the junior Miliband's victory, despite earlier reports that it was David they most feared. "There is not an air of complacency from the PM at all."

The Conservative Party chairman, Baroness Warsi, also gave a flavour of the likely attack strategy for the coming months, noting: "Ed Miliband wasn't the choice of his MPs, wasn't the choice of Labour Party members, but was put into power by union votes. This looks like a great leap backwards for the Labour Party."

Mr Miliband used an article in the right-leaning Sunday Telegraph to appeal to the "squeezed middle classes" and "everyone who works hard and wants to get on". It aimed to counter the view that he is too left wing and too close to union barons whose support he courted so ruthlessly – leading to opponents' characterisation of him as "red Ed". Behind the affable exterior lies a determined political brain. It has been clear from the start of his political career, rising quickly from backbencher to minister at the Cabinet Office when his mentor, Mr Brown, become PM. The bond between sorcerer and apprentice was so strong, the younger man had a whole ministry created for him – the Department for Energy and Climate Change – in October 2008.

A veteran of the selection process in his Doncaster seat before the 2005 general election recalls he "never said anything earth-shattering, but he made them feel good about where we were going". It is a common refrain from people with first-hand experience of Ed Miliband; now it has worked so dramatically on the Labour Party at large, he must hope he can transfer his feel-good factor to the nation as a whole.

For his teachers, despite his political home life, there was no obvious sign of the high office to come. Nikki Haydon, head of English at Haverstock school when Ed and David were there, said: "They were both hard-working and would keep their heads down and get on with their work. There weren't any particular signs they'd go into politics then. When they left school that was more apparent; I live near by and they both used to deliver leaflets for the Labour Party."

In his maiden speech in the House of Commons, Ed Miliband followed his brother in noting their humble background as the children of immigrants "who had strong political beliefs", which he cited as the reason he was in Parliament in the first place. But Ed went further than David, declaring that: "Ours was a socialist household, in which we were brought up not just to think that the injustices of society were wrong, but to believe that, through political change, something could be done about them.

"Of course," he added, "as we grow up all of us make our own way...." It could have been the opening shot of a contest that began almost exactly five years later. "Despite progress in the past eight years, Britain is still a country too unequal, too divided by class and status, too distant from the goal even of equality of opportunity."

The message, of inequality, community, respect, is largely the same today, in government but particularly in opposition. Regardless of his personal style, it is Ed Miliband's heavily progressive rhetoric, his faint nods to Labour's more leftist ancestry, that set him apart from his more Blairite brother.

"I quickly offer this reassurance to the House: there are no more Miliband brothers to come. I am sure that honourable members will agree that two is more than enough."

Now, as far as the Labour Party is concerned, there is only one that really matters.

At a glance

* Ed Miliband won the leadership of the Labour Party in a straight run-off with his brother, David. Diane Abbott was eliminated first with just 7.5 per cent of support. When her second preference votes were redistributed, Andy Burnham came last with 10.4 per cent. On the next round, Ed Balls was knocked out with 16 per cent.

* Appearing close to tears, Ed Miliband paid tribute to Justine Thornton, his partner, who is pregnant with their second child, for her "incredible love and support".

* Senior party figures were quick to offer congratulations but it took a little longer to get the reaction from David Miliband's camp.

* The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats sent good wishes, but quickly challenged his closeness to the unions.

* After leaving the stage, he met party staff and drank a cup of tea.

Ed Miliband's victory speech in full

“Can I start by thanking you for the amazing honour that you have given me. I first joined this party at the age of 17. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe that I would one day lead this party.

“You have put your trust in me and I am determined to repay that trust to you. Every hour of every day of my leadership I will seek to repay that trust. And the first way I need to repay that trust is by uniting our party and taking it forward together.”

“I’d like to thank all of my fellow candidates: David, Diane, Ed and Andy for the outstanding job they did in this leadership contest and the outstanding amount they have to offer our party in the future.

“David, I love you so much as a brother and I have such extraordinary respect for the campaign that you ran, the strength and eloquence that you showed. You taught us the most important lesson, which is we can be a party that reaches out to the community and we can also be a serious party of government again .We all know how much you have to offer this country in the future.”

“Ed, your campaign has been a testament to your ability, your intelligence and strength. And do you know what? Every Tory minister is quaking in their boots at the prospect of Ed shadowing them after the job he’s done on Michael Gove.

“Andy, you have reached people who felt Labour had forgotten them. You have reminded us what the fundamental mission and character of our party must be. You are an extraordinary talent for are party and have an extraordinary amount to offer in the future. I congratulate you on the campaign that you have run.

“Diane, you were so right to run in this election. You’ve spoken distinct truths to this party that needed to be said and it is important that your voice continues to be heard in the future.”

“Let me also pay tribute to all the people who worked on my colleague’s campaigns. All the people who supported their campaigns. It is hard work being part of a leadership election team. I think we should hear it for all the people who supported my fellow candidates in this election

“I say this to you: I want to use your talents whoever you supported in this election to help our Labour party.

“Today we draw a line under this contest and move forward united as a team.”

“I want to thank some people too. I want to thank my partner Justine for her incredible love and support that she has shown to me during this contest. I want to thank my constituency party of Doncaster North, who had the faith to choose me in 2005 and the people of Doncaster North who elected me in 2005 and re-elected me in 2010. I will never forget who put me into parliament and who made it possible for me to run and win this job.

“I also want to thank the extraordinary group of volunteers who joined my campaign. Over 4,000 people up and down the country, many of them young people, many of them who had been involved in politics for the first time.

“What I know most of all is that the Labour Party in the future must be a vehicle that doesn’t just attract thousands of young people but tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of young people who see us as their voice in British politics today.”

“I will do my job, strengthened in my abilities, because I will have the best deputy anyone could hope for. She has done a fantastic job since the election. Harriet, everyone has admired the substance, the spirit and the style of your leadership. Thank you for what you have done for the party and will do in the future.

“I want to thank Gordon Brown, who spoke to us earlier. There are millions of people round this country and millions of people around the world who have better lives thanks to the work of Gordon Brown in government. There can be no better political legacy than that.

“I am proud of the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but we lost the election and we lost it badly.

“My message to the country is this - I know we lost trust, I know we lost touch, I know we need to change.

“Today a new generation has taken charge of Labour, a new generation that understands the call of change. And that call of change I heard as I went round this country during this leadership campaign.

“I say, I get it that people felt they were working long hours without reward and felt we weren't properly on their side.

“I get it that people weren't prejudiced about immigration, people felt anxious and insecure. People felt anxious and insecure about their wages and conditions and housing. I get it and I understand the need to change.

“I get it also that people worried about the next generation - people thought 'Are my kids going to get on to the housing ladder? Are they going to leave university with high levels of personal debt?' I get it and I understand the need to change.

“I get it also that, whatever your view on the Iraq War, it led to an appalling loss of trust for us. I know we didn't always speak to your hopes, your dreams and address your fears and uncertainties. I know we have to change.

“I have to unify this party and I will. I am going to show that I understand the need to change.

“We have to inspire people with our vision of the good society.

“Let me tell you what I believe: I believe we must reduce the deficit but I believe we must do so much more than that to have an economy working in the interest of the hard-working people of this country.

“I do believe this country is too unequal and the gap between rich and poor doesn't just harm the poor it harms us all and it is something Government must tackle.

“I do believe that there are too many people in this country locked out of opportunity by accident of birth or background and I believe we must have a society that upholds and protects things beyond the bottom line: family, community, time, the environment - all things that matter to us.

“I believe also we need a different type of politics in this country and I will oppose this coalition Government where they are doing the wrong thing but I will support them when they are doing the right thing. That is responsible politics and it's the politics people in this country want.

“I recognise above all the scale of the journey on which we must embark to win back your trust. I recognise it won't be easy. But be in no doubt - my leadership will be devoted to securing the opportunity for Labour to serve the country again.

“Not power for its own sake, but to make this country the more prosperous, more equal, more fair, just society we can be.”

“I believe in Britain. Today's election turns the page because a new generation has stepped forward to serve our party and in time I hope to serve our country. Today the work of the new generation begins.”


"David, I love you so much as a brother and I have such extraordinary respect for the campaign that you ran, the strength and eloquence that you showed. We all know how much you have to offer this country in the future."

Ed Miliband, newly elected Labour leader

"Congratulations to Ed Miliband. I was Leader of the Opposition for four years and know what a demanding but important job it is. I wish him and his family well."

David Cameron, Prime Minister

"I am moved and honoured by your support and proud of our campaign together. I passionately want Ed to have a united party."

David Miliband, Labour leadership candidate

"We have got to come together now and say 'This is our leader, this is the man we have got to unite behind.' I will back him 100 per cent."

Ed Balls, former cabinet minister and leadership candidate

What this contest has shown is that there is no ideological divide. Labour's first task is to take the fight to this coalition Government and to win back the trust and support of the British people."

Andy Burnham, Labour leadership candidate

"I ran the course, I said the things I felt needed to be said, and I think now the party is ready to unite behind Ed... I want to have a drink."

Diane Abbot

"Ed must try not to get bogged down in the whole 'are you Tony or are you Gordon?' thing. People want someone who can stand on their own two feet."

Jo Brand, comedienne

"The narrowness of David Miliband's defeat and his brother Ed's victory says more about the closeness of their views than any deep split in the Labour Party at the present time."

Lord Tebbit, Conservative peer

"Ed's a safe pair of hands – he's reliable and very bright. His priority must be now to elect prospective parliamentary candidates as soon as possible so they can get to know their potential constituents."

Dave Rowntree, drummer in Blur and Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for City of London and Westminster

"Trade unions - the paymasters and king makers of the Labour Party... I think Labour will be even more in hock to unions and Ed Miliband will be boxed in to opposing deficit reduction far more than David Miliband would have been."

Margot James, Tory MP for Stourbridge

"We've never seen anything quite like what we've had, with two brothers neck and neck. They can't afford to fall out in the way we had with Tony and Gordon, and neither can we."

David Blunkett, Former Labour cabinet minister

"I was supporting David very strongly, so obviously personally I feel disappointment. The important thing is, now, everybody, whoever they voted for, will rally behind Ed as the new leader of the Labour Party."

Tessa Jowell, Former Labour Cabinet Minister

"Congratulations to Ed on being elected leader of the Labour Party. We look forward to working together to challenge the coalition Government and its regressive cuts agenda.

Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary

"I want warmly to congratulate Ed Miliban. It is good to hear that he intends to practise a new politics of working across party boundaries in the national interest."

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem Deputy Leader

"His victory, coming from nowhere a few months ago, is a clear sign that the party wants change, to move on from New Labour. Now the party must unite and take the fight to the Tories."

Tony Woodley, Joint Leader of Unite

"I'm absolutely over the moon. To come from 33/1 into a winning position speaks volumes about the fact that he pitched his campaign absolutely right."

Tony Robinson, Labour Party activist and actor

"David Miliband should do what every gracious older brother would do in this situation - and kick the crap out of Ed."

Stephen Pollard, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle

"Ed's first priorities should be to think about what people at home are going to make of him, and to think about how to reach out to people who abandoned Labour in the last two elections."

Lance Price, former advisor to Tony Blair

"We have high hopes that the man who brought an end to the era of coal-fired power stations with unlimited emissions will be the right man to hold Cameron's 'greenest Government ever' to their promises."

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK

"Ed Miliband's first test will be next May's Scottish elections when voters will face a choice between an SNP team that has Scotland at its heart and a Labour Party that is Westminster-focused and out of touch."

Nicola Sturgeon, deputy leader of the SNP

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