A Profile of David Miliband

The last twenty years have seen David Miliband on a trajectory of political success. He has served as the Member of Parliament for South Shields since 2001, and entered the Cabinet in 2007 where he remained the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs until earlier this year. He has continued in the shadow cabinet as shadow foreign secretary. He has vehemently supported efforts to tackle climate change and is an enthusiastic advocate of equal gay rights.

As disenchantment reigned, he came under heavy criticism for missing several opportunities to challenge Gordon Brown’s premiership. Now in a close-run fight to win the Labour leadership contest, we must question whether he really acted out of cowardice or made a well-calculated decision. At a time when public support for Labour has been greatly diminished, is Miliband the man who can revitalise the party and form a formidable shadow cabinet? Branded ‘too right wing’ by the left of the party, a win for him could represent a triumph of pragmatism over ideology.

Should we offer him the job? Let’s review his credentials and decide.

Miliband was born in London on the 15th July 1965, the son of renowned Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband. He played out his childhood in Leeds, where he spent one year at Benton Park Secondary School before his family returned to London. He completed his secondary education at London’s Haverstock Comprehensive School.

From there he went on to read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. This choice appears to have made an impression on the family as Edward Miliband later emulated his brother’s undergraduate education. David then spent a years as Kennedy Scholar at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, where he studied for a Masters in Political Science.

Back in the UK, Miliband took his first job working for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. He launched his political career at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) where he worked as a Research Fellow and Policy Analyst between 1989 and 1994. In his final two years at the IPPR, he served as the Secretary of the Commission on Social Justice. This was established by the then Labour party leader John Smith to reinvigorate approaches to welfare policy.

Following this fruitful spell at the IPPR, Miliband worked as Head of Policy for Tony Blair between 1994 and 1997. This meant that he assumed a pivotal role in contributing to the manifesto which would ultimately lead Labour to victory in the 1997 General Election. He was then appointed Head of Tony Blair’s Policy Unit during Labour’s first term in office between 1997 and 2001, when he became the Member of Parliament for South Shields.

In June 2002, Miliband became Schools Minister in the Department for Education and Skills. 2003 saw the invasion of Iraq. As the conflict is now perceived by many as a significant blight on the last Labour government’s record, it is controversial that David Miliband voted very strongly in favour of the war, and later very strongly against the corresponding investigation. He was also very much in favour of Labour’s counter-terrorism legislation, which has been condemned as an affront to civil liberties.

His personal career progression continued in December 2004 when he replaced Ruth Kelly as a Cabinet Office Minister. When Labour was re-elected in May 2005, Miliband was finally appointed to the Cabinet as Minister of State for Communities and Local Government in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

David Miliband’s dedication to the fight against climate change has been admirable. He was able to champion this cause more effectively when he became the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in May 2006. He has concentrated on raising global awareness of the threat as he believes that international co-operation is vital to success. He has taken a particular interest in reducing carbon emissions and promoting a low carbon economy, suggesting initiatives such as the “Carbon Credit Card”, which would attach individual responsibility to citizens.

It was in 2006 that Miliband became the first British cabinet member to have a blog. The use of this medium received a mixed reaction. It modernised the way in which the public can engage with politics, and represented a triumph for transparency. However, the cost of the blog to the taxpayer was viewed by some as disproportionate.

June 2007 marked the formation of Gordon Brown’s government, under which David Miliband was appointed foreign secretary. At 41, he was Britain’s third youngest foreign secretary. It was at this stage that his younger brother, Edward Miliband, was appointed Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

There were several highlights during David Miliband’s time as Foreign Secretary. In December 2007, he attended the official signing of the EU Reform Treaty in lieu of Gordon Brown, who was otherwise engaged. This was a great opportunity for Miliband, who has consistently voted strongly in favour of increased European integration. In 2009 he was named as ‘ideal material’ for the position of European Foreign Minister, a post created by the Lisbon Treaty, although it was Baroness Ashton who was eventually appointed.

Nonetheless, not all days were glory days for Miliband. Commenting on the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai (India), Miliband advocated the resolution of the dispute of Kashmir, which angered Indian authorities whose stance has largely been to reject third party intervention in this conflict.

Besides his politics his personal life choices have also been called into question in the past year. A self-professed atheist with Jewish roots, Miliband was recently accused of hypocrisy when he and his wife secured a place for their son at a heavily over-subscribed Church of England school even though he had not been baptised.

So, it transpires that David Miliband is not flawless. Nonetheless he is undoubtedly well-qualified to lead the Labour Party. Now that we have considered his curriculum vitae, we must turn to his covering letter. What is Miliband’s vision for the future of the Labour party?

Described by Jon Cruddas as “the most important speech by a Labour politician for many years”, David Miliband’s Keir Hardie lecture provided an illuminating account of his ideology. He identified values which he views as central to Labour’s ethos: solidarity, reciprocity and mutuality. These, he asserts, underpin the Labour movement, which was “built on ethical relationships that were forged between people through common action.” Miliband has expressed a desire to reignite the Movement and remind the British public of its moral philosophy.

Having said that, I’m sure he could tell you more about all this himself.

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