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

26th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Ed Miliband, the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, claimed the crown thanks to strong backing from trade unionists seduced by a radical vision for reclaiming power.

Labour's youngest-ever leader at 40 years old, Miliband beat his elder brother David, the former foreign minister, by a narrow margin in a contest few expected him to win when it began in May.

Ed Miliband, who shot up the ranks, emerged as a serious player as energy and climate change secretary in the former Labour government, developing a rapport with the party's working-class supporters.

His nice guy image and passionate speeches -- usually jacket off, chopping the air in a billowing shirt -- convinced enough people that he represented the centre-left Labour Party's 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 says he wants to remould Labour into an electable force again following its ousting from office in the May general election.

But he must also be careful in managing his relationship with David -- who in the voting proved more popular with party members and lawmakers, though not trade union members -- with both tight-lipped about whether he would serve under his kid brother.

In his victory speech he stressed their brotherly love, and the Milibands may need every ounce of it to heal the splits between the camps of former premiers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Brown put Ed Miliband in charge of drafting the 2010 general election manifesto, though he has escaped the blame for the party's slump and distanced himself from the old regime, saying the New Labour era had passed.

Brown said Saturday he bore the responsibility alone, which should help his successor.

Miliband was a long-standing member of Brown's inner circle.

He considers himself a progressive, radical moderniser. His campaign reached out to Labour's core working-class supporters and earned the trade union backing that swept him to the leadership.

"My message to the country is this: I know we lost trust," he said in his victory speech.

"I know we lost touch. I know we need to change. Today a new generation has taken charge of Labour. A new generation that understands the call for change."

Of Polish Jewish heritage, Edward Samuel Miliband was born in London on December 24, 1969. His partner is Justine Thornton, a lawyer. They have one son and she is pregnant with another, due in November. They intend to marry.

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

In 1993 he became a speechwriter for Harriet Harman -- now his deputy leader -- before switching to 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 the Cabinet since 1938.

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

His performance on that platform soon charmed Labour supporters and his decision to run paid off handsomely.

© 2010 AFP

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