UK Media Revelations Stir Up Old Animosities

The Telegraph was given a basket of Labour dirty linen by an insider and was quite happy to display it.

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Amiel Ungar, | updated: 03:30

Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband


For a venerable broadsheet daily, the British Telegraph has had its share of scoops in recent years including the padded expenses of members of Parliament and now the cabal by associates of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to oust his predecessor Tony Blair from office. If on the expense account story the Telegraph had to do a bit of digging, this story was dumped in its lap by an anonymous insider who knew that the Conservative-oriented newspaper would not resist publishing a tale damaging to the Labour opposition.

In Hebrew there is a phrase that success has many claimants but failure is an orphan. That is not quite true, because in the case of failure there will be fierce competition to pin the blame. This is particularly true when a party that has been in power for more than a decade and considers its rule unassailable suddenly finds itself in opposition. Aside from blaming the voters, inevitably self-defeating, the usual claim is that the party brought defeat upon itself and therefore once it corrects its failing it will return to office.

Unfortunately for Labour, there are two distinct competing narratives. The fault line runs down the Miliband family, between brothers Ed and David. Ed Miliband, current leader of the opposition, together with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, and Shadow Foreign Minister Douglas Alexander are implicated in "Project Volvo", the plan to bring down Tony Blair and replace him with Brown. They formed Gordon Brown's intimate circle and considered Blair, despite his 3 successive electoral victories,, a lightweight poseur who had tarnished the government in Britain by his defense of the war in Iraq.

David Miliband, a former Foreign Minister, was a supporter of Tony Blair and New Labour. After Blair left, David Miliband flirted with the idea of challenging Gordon Brown for the succession. Following Labour's defeat in the 2010 elections, the 2 brothers contended for the leadership of the opposition with Ed besting David.

The Blairites reciprocate the disdain shown by the Brown faction. They had led Labour 3 times in succession to victory and when Brown took over he promptly led it to defeat. This was not simply personal, but reflected the New Labour success in capturing the political center and aligning the party with mainstream views on crime and government spending. Another tidbit that made it to the press was the victory speech that David Miliband intended to give, in which he would have conceded that Labour's defeat was a result of economic mismanagement (thus laying the defeat at the door of Gordon Brown and his adjutant Ed Balls).

David Miliband strenuously objects to the charges that he is waiting for his brother to fail. He claims that he wants the party to unite behind brother Ed.

Historically, when disputes run very deep in a party there are a number of ways at resolving them. Both sides could talk it over, let it all out and following such a catharsis, move on. Alternatively, one side can sit on its hands and allow its intraparty opponents to crash in a general election and then attempt to pick up the pieces.

Another alternative is to turn to a fresh face, who has not been scarred by the recent infighting. As of now options 2 and 3 appear the more likely.