Lesson From Ed Miliband’s Rise in U.K.

BY Michael D. Mosettig  September 27, 2010 at 1:00 PM EDT


The brothers Miliband: Ed (left) and David (right) at the Labour party conference in England. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Updated Oct. 4

Editor’s Note: We have confirmed with his staff that Ed Miliband did indeed serve as an unpaid intern at the NewsHour during the mid-1980s.

For basic reasons of courtesy and good workplace practices, it is wise for senior staffers to be nice to the most junior, whether they are called interns, desk assistants or whatever the title. But there are other good reasons as well: one of these young people could end up as your boss and any number of them could end up being important. Or in the case of interns, really important, like being one step removed from becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Over the weekend, Ed Miliband was announced the winner of the Labor Party’s election to succeed Gordon Brown as party leader. Should the current Conservative-Liberal coalition make a bad stumble, or even lose its majority in the House of Commons, Miliband would be poised to become prime minister.

A conversation with then-foreign secretary David Miliband last year about his younger brother, Ed, jogged our memory that he had been a news intern early in his career.

To devotees of the Old Testament, English history or its Shakespearean versions, Miliband’s path to victory in a contest decided by Labor members of parliament, union leaders and party activists had a familiar ring. The man that 40-year-old Miliband beat was his 45-year-old brother, David Miliband, the foreign secretary in the last Labor government who had been tipped in the British press as the next leader — until the younger Miliband jumped in the race.

According to The Economist, the two brothers professed their love for each other during the contest even as Ed took a more left stance than David on whether the party’s future rested with the middle or working classes and how vigorously Labor should fight budget cuts being proposed by the Conservative/Liberal ruling coalition. His paper-thin winning margin came from union leaders, who were never comfortable with Tony Blair’s New Labor.

Both brothers worked at Labor Party headquarters as Blair was modernizing old Labor into a more middle-class and business friendly party. But David is considered more the Blair acolyte and Ed more closely associated with Blair’s successor and rival, Gordon Brown.

The family’s history has long been cloaked in drama, even before the brothers decided to fight each other for the Labor leadership. Their late father Ralph was a Marxist sociologist who fled Belgium one step ahead of the Nazis in 1940. Their mother also survived World War II, arriving in England from Poland in the 1950s.

Professor Miliband is buried in London’s Highgate Cemetary, close by the grave of Karl Marx. As numerous commentators observed in the British press over the weekend, that is quite a remove from New Labor.