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David Miliband: A Failed Life In Politics

Graham Stringer MP on a politician who's abandoned his constituents and his legacy

Published on April 4th 2013.

David Miliband: A Failed Life In Politics

THE appalling decision of Sunderland AFC to appoint the self-declared fascist and Mussolini admirer Paolo Di Canio as head coach left David Miliband with no alternative but to resign as Vice Chairman of the club. This decision was honourable and inevitable. In this it contrasts sharply with his decision to quit as a Member of Parliament, which was certainly not inevitable and probably not honourable.  

He has exposed himself as part of the new, all too common breed who see becoming an MP as a finishing school for joining the fraternity of millionaires.  

To put it bluntly David is leaving British politics because he cannot stomach his younger brother Ed occupying the position he covets as Leader of the Labour Party.

The miners of Monkwearmouth Lodge, whose proud banner followed David Miliband out of Sunderland’s stadium, would have found this a pathetic reason to abandon the people of South Shields, his constituency, and the Labour movement. They knew a thing or two about struggle and adversity.

Politics, like boxing, is a rough tough business. The objective is to knock your opponent out of the electoral race. The courage to enter the political arena is very similar to that required to enter the boxing ring. Physically you may not be at risk but your personality, intellect and philosophy certainly are. Damage here can be a lot more painful than a few bruises.

Gordon Brown’s disastrous leadership gave David Miliband his first opportunity to show his mettle; three times he choked failing to climb into the ring with this fragile bully. After the General Election with Brown gone he finally summoned up the courage to face his younger brother for the leadership of the Labour Party.

Having entered the ring he then lacked the will to win. His fatal flaw was to be too aloof and arrogant to do the necessary preparatory work and talk to common or garden MPs who might have given him victory, he only needed an extra half dozen votes to win.

David MilibandDavid Miliband

Lacking bravery is not David Miliband’s only defect as a potential leader, his ministerial career had shown some serious misjudgements. At Education he over-claimed for improvement in exam results, at Environment he damaged the security of our energy supply and worst of all as Foreign Secretary he was embroiled in the extraordinary renditions scandal.

A career then that is a study in failure.

However it is worth remembering that if Winston Churchill had died in 1939 he would, if remembered at all, be remembered for his mistakes and not as one of our greatest Prime Ministers. (I know, I know David Miliband is not to be mistaken for Churchill).

In spite of David Miliband’s mistakes I voted for him to lead the Labour Party in 2010 because he seemed to be the only contender who was not in denial about the failures of the Brown administration. Indeed some of his mistakes were because he remained part of that administration during its last woeful months. He genuinely seemed to be attempting to find an intellectual, rigorous and honest path to better policies and a more credible position with the electorate. Unlike the others he didn’t dissimulate when challenged about his position on Iraq for instance.

To summarise David Miliband’s political career in the House of Commons was less than glittering but his deep intelligence and intellectual honesty gave reason for optimism that he might benefit from his experience and make a major contribution to the political life of this country over the next ten years. Instead he has exposed himself as part of the new, all too common breed who see becoming an MP as a finishing school for joining the fraternity of millionaires.  

This makes me very angry because it clashes fundamentally with my view of the commitment required for politicians of the Left. For while there is poverty, disadvantage and ignorance then there is an abundance of work for those of us privileged to represent people as councillors, MPs or Ministers of the Crown.

David Miliband should not be put into that category of ‘great leaders the Labour Party never had’. Great leaders respect the communities they represent, they don’t desert the people of South Shields because family life is tough.

How hollow David Miliband’s campaign to restore trust in politics now sounds.

Paolo Di CanioPaolo Di CanioThe Labour Party must learn the lesson that fast tracking clever political advisers at the expense of local people with real experience of the world is one of the reasons for the alienation of the electorate. I trust South Shields Labour Party will be allowed to select a person from the North East who has experience of campaigning for and representing disadvantaged groups.

Finally David Miliband was right not to work with Paolo Di Canio but can he explain why Paolo Di Canio is worse than Henry Kissinger?

Henry Kissinger is on the board of International Rescue the charity from which David Miliband will draw his $400,000 a year salary. Henry Kissinger ,you may remember was part of an administration responsible for carpet bombing large parts of South East Asia and killing tens of thousands of people. Something a little more serious than anything an attention-seeking footballer has done.    

Graham StringerGraham Stringer

Graham Stringer is a regular columnist for Manchester Confidential. He is the Labour Member of Parliament for Blackley and Broughton with a majority of 12,303. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 for the now abolished constituency of Manchester Blackley. Prior to this he was the Leader of Manchester City Council from 1984-1996. He is one of the few MPs to have science experience, as a professional analytical chemist. He is a member of The Science and Technology Committee at Westminster. 

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DavidApril 4th 2013.

That's a bit rich Mr Stringer,you complained many times that Gordon Brown was leading Labour to defeat.But you did not have the bottle to challenge him..or rather you have a nice job for life as MP in Manchester.There is no more political coward than you and no bigger hypocrite than you,accusing a man for something you are more than guilty of yourself.Also your career since stepping down as leader Manchester council is an even bigger failure,you have failed to achieve any top jobs in the Labour Party,failed to achieve anything at Westminster.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 4th 2013.

A bit harsh, David. He did vote for you in the leadership contest after all.

James HApril 4th 2013.

Why is this David chap on Confidential so very very angry? I think he's possibly a bit lonely

C ButterworthApril 4th 2013.

Excellent piece by Mr Stringer again. He's right to question Miliband working with Kissinger and turning his back on his constituency.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 4th 2013.

Plus that "fat cat" salary of 400,000 dollars to boot too remember!
(For a charity? That's more like a BBC salary.)

AnonymousApril 4th 2013.

Some fair points. But to castigate David Miliband as a failure when Mr Stringer has done little more than warm the backbenches whilst new Labour was in power is a bit rich. As others have noted, Mr Stringer was quick to stick the knife into Gordon Brown but lacked the bottle to stand for office yourself. Moreover, i cannot remember Mr Stringer criticising Tony Lloyd when he resigned to take on better paid job as Police Commissioner (a policy which Labour both opposed and yet bizzarely contested). Lloyd 'deserted' his constituents too part way through his tenure as MP. His replacement, Lucy Powell, also abandoned her 'home seat' of Manchester Withington (http://www.labour.org.uk/lucy-powell) to take up the Manchester Central seat. This smacked of careerism and certinaly lacked consideration for the Withington constituency party, its activists or those who voted for her in the last election. I look forward to a column explaining how such selfish actions in Manchester 'restore trust in politics'. Over to you Mr Stringer.....

AnonymousApril 4th 2013.

This reads as a nasty, vindictive and at times hipocritical piece. Milliband quits your party to work for a charity and five minutes latter your sticking a knife in his back. Just how long had you been waiting for this opertunity to have a go at him?

I'm also sure the people of south shields would rather have an MP who is fully committed to them than one who has decided to quit but just stays in post for a couple more years to an election.

1 Response: Reply To This...
DavidApril 4th 2013.

Mr Stringer attacks Milliband for taking a job with a charity that involves Henry Kissenger,who was part of the USA government that 'carpet bombed' S E Asia.Mr Stringer remained a MP for a party that did exactly the same to Afganistan and Iraq.However he likes to portray himself as a man of conscience and integrity compared to Milliband.

crisbyApril 4th 2013.

As a Manchester Central resident I strongly object to Anon's criticism of Tony Lloyd, who served the constituency well for 15 years. He was a distinguished parliamentarian - an endangered species these days - and his propsects of promotion probably suffered as a result - though voting against the Blairites on issues like Iraq, rendition and tuition fees probably didn't help either. To compare him with Milliband is absurd, the Police Commissioner salary is only (yes, I know, 'only!') a 50% rise.

As for Mr Stringer, maybe he's happy to be a constituency MP? Doesn't make him a failure, he may well work hard at that for all I know, it's an honourable role and is supposed to be a full time job after all. It's also not fair to criticise him for not standing to be leader - no offence to him, he's got plenty to be proud of in his career, but as a 'stalking horse' he'd have been heavily sneered at by all and sundry. He's spot on about Milliband anyway.

PatrickApril 4th 2013.

Miliband 'honest'.... Are you sure? From expenses to extraordinary rendition he was anything but. And as for his 'honourable' decision to step down, pah. Nothing like making a virtue out of necessity. He didn't have time given his new job, where, btw, he will be working alongside that virtuous statesman Henry Kissinger.

AnonymousApril 4th 2013.

To think that Miliband, Blair, Mandelson & their like were MPs for North East constituencies. And people wonder why London got £16billion for Crossrail and the North South divide grew at a greater rate under New Labour?
New Labour and their "parachuted in" MPs were far more pro London and the South East, than the Tories ever were & are!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidApril 4th 2013.

You are absolutely correct and what did the likes of Stringer or Lloyd do about this during the time of Labour governments?.What did they do to get the north a fair share of the transport budget?.

AnonymousApril 5th 2013.

Don't care where MPs are originally from, but insist the constituency is where their first home now is, it's where their children must attend school and it's where they must use the health care facilities etc.
Then these Metropolitan Liberal Left "frauds" wouldn't dare "parachute in" & set foot up Norf!!!

Poppy HumphreyApril 5th 2013.


Just to clarify to your earlier post, Graham voted against the war in Iraq- check out his voting record

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidApril 5th 2013.

Did he vote against the war against Afganistan?,.Did he resign his seat over Labours war against Iraq?.Did he stand against Gordon Brown?.
David Milliband was able to get a high paid job in New York,because unlike Mr Stringer he actually achieved something in his political career in Westminster,like being Foreign Secretary.
Also David Milliband unlike his brother did not pretend he had always been against the 'illegal' wars,he did not sacrifice principle and honesty in the pursuit of power.If he was leader unlike his brother Ed they would have a far greater chance of winning an election,something even most Labour MPs admit

AnonymousApril 5th 2013.

I thought Graham Stringer was excellent (in the end) as the council leader and far more effective as a politician back then.
Well compared to Leese at least, who is such a dissapointment nowadays.
Sadly, Manchester is today a POLITICALLY DEAD city.

CobbydalerApril 5th 2013.

I'm sure David Miliband withdrew from politics because he despaired that the party had reverted to being run by the unions. That's the only reason he was defeated by his intellectually inferior brother in the competition for the leadership...

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