So. Farewell then, David Miliband

by Stephen Tall on March 27, 2013

So.david miliband
Farewell then
David Miliband.

You did not
Win the
Labour leadership.

Though you got more votes
Than Brother Ed

The trade unions
Did not
like you.

They liked
him instead.

That was
your tragedy.
And it will be
His.

EJ Thribb

And so David Miliband exits the political stage, pursued by a barely concealed sense of thwarted ambition. The man who, but for four MPs’ votes, would now be Labour leader and PM-in-waiting is instead leaving the country for New York to run an international charity. (Another small victory for Theresa May’s crusade to drive down net migration.)

Four years ago you’d have got good odds on David Miliband and James Purnell being two of Labour’s leading lights; neither are now MPs. The pendulum of politics has swung decisively away from the Blairites.

With Labour’s own debt-ridden finances now increasingly dependent on funding from the trade unions (and in particular the public sector union Unite) Ed Miliband has very little room for manoeuvre. He knows he must persuade the public that Labour will put national interests before producer interests; yet he needs to keep the unions on side. Trapped, he’s become a Trappist on issues like public sector pay and reform.

As for David Miliband, well, part of me is sympathetic. He came so close, and lost to the only person whose victory would inevitably shut him out of top-table politics.

But before we get the violins out to serenade him across the pond, let’s remember here was a man who not only voted for the Iraq war but was also probably complicit in the state-sanctioned torture. Remember that, and I find my sympathy ebbs just a little.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.