Daily Israel Report

Historic First: UK's Labor Party Headed by a Jew

Secular Jewish candidate Ed Miliband beats his older brother to win leadership of Britain's Labor party.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 9/26/2010, 9:30 PM / Last Update: 9/26/2010, 10:06 PM

The CBI

Ed Miliband won the race to head Britain's Labour party on Sunday, beating his rival candidate and older brother David Miliband by 1.3 percent to replace Gordon Brown. The son of Polish Jewish immigrants, Miliband is the first Jew to head the Labor party.

After winning, Miliband pledged his support to “Middle Britain,” promising that Labor would not “lurch to the left” under his leadership and would “never again lose touch with the mainstream of society.” His statement was an apparent attempt to soothe Labour voters concerned by his leftist image.

Miliband's opponents have dubbed him "Red Ed" and charge that he will be controlled by trade unions, a claim he denied Sunday. “I am nobody's man, I am my own man,” he insisted. The leaders of Britain's three largest unions supported his bid for Labor head.

Miliband will head the shadow government in Britain's parliamentary opposition, and eventually plans to lead his party against the currently leading Tory (Conservative) party in national elections.

While paying tribute to past leaders, he expressed a desire to take a different path. “I am proud of the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but we lost the election and lost it badly,” he said. “My message is this: I know we lost touch... I know we need to change.”

Miliband's family situation is unique due to more than his Jewish roots. He is also the first leader of a major British party to be living with a partner and children, without being married. Miliband and his long-term girlfriend Justine Thornton are expecting their second child together, and have no plans for a wedding, although when questioned by a reporter about marriage Miliband said the couple would “get around to it at some point.”

If he ever becomes prime minister, however, Miliband would not be the first Jew in that capacity: more than 100 years ago Benjamin Disraeli, a Jew who was converted at a young age to Christianity, led the Tory party and served as prime minister twice.