Ed Miliband, radical with a feel for Labour's soul

25th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Ed Miliband, the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour, has shot up the ranks to win over the party with his progressive radical prescription for restoring it to power.

The 40-year-old beat his older brother David, the former foreign minister, in a contest few expected him to win when it began in May.

Ed Miliband emerged as a serious player since serving as energy and climate change secretary in the former Labour government, becoming a popular figure with the party's grassroots left-wing supporters.

His passionate speeches -- usually with his jacket off, chopping the air in a billowing shirt -- convinced the centre-left party that he represents their best hope of toppling the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

The son of Ralph Miliband, one of the foremost Marxist theorists of the 20th century, the Londoner now faces the challenge of remoulding Labour into an election-winning force following its defeat in the May general election.

But he must also be careful in managing his relationship with David.

Throughout the campaign he stressed the love between the brothers, and the Milibands may need every ounce of it to heal a party still divided along the lines of former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Brown put Ed Miliband in charge of drafting the manifesto for the general election, though he appears to have escaped the blame for the party's slump and has sought to distance himself from the old regime.

Although he always had the political heritage to succeed in the Labour Party, Ed's rise has been swift.

He was a long-standing member of Brown's inner circle, though often acted as an emissary between the camps of Brown and his predecessor Blair.

He is more left-leaning than his brother David and considers himself a progressive, radical moderniser.

His campaign was based on reaching out to Labour's core working-class supporters and earned the backing of six trade unions -- three times more than any other candidate.

"The party needs to rediscover the radicalism that drives our progressive mission as the most powerful transformative force for good in our society," he said during his campaign.

He urged Labour to become "the idealists again in British politics."

Of Polish Jewish heritage, Edward Samuel Miliband was born on December 24, 1969. His partner is Justine Thornton, a lawyer. They have one son.

In the 1920s, his paternal grandparents left Warsaw's Jewish quarter for Belgium, where they met. His father was born in Brussels and fled to Britain when the Nazis invaded in 1940.

His mother survived the German occupation of Poland and left for London at the age of 12.

Ed Miliband went to a London state school before graduating from Oxford University and taking a master's from the London School of Economics.

He joined Labour in the 1980s and in 1993 became a speechwriter for Harriet Harman -- now his deputy leader -- before going to work for Brown the following year.

After Labour won the 1997 election and Brown became finance minister, he made Miliband one of his special advisers.

He entered parliament in the 2005 general election, winning the safe Labour seat of Doncaster North in northern England.

Blair brought him into government in May 2006 as a parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, the most junior ministerial level.

When Brown became premier, he moved him up a rank to Cabinet Office minister and made him chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, a sinecure office with Cabinet rank.

His elevation made the Milibands the first brothers to serve in Cabinet since 1938.

In October 2008, Brown made him secretary of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change where he was a passionate voice on combating global warming.

© 2010 AFP

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