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With our media, David M’s ‘no more soap opera’ is impossible

Posted on 27 September 2010 | 12:09pm

Excellent little off the cuff speech by David Miliband at Labour’s conference today. He has handled himself well in defeat. He has a lot to offer. But just as yesterday I suggested his brother Ed would be well served by trying to ignore all the noise around him as he works on his first conference speech as leader, so David should try to ignore all the noise around him as he decides his own future.

The papers and airwaves are packed full of advice for both of them. The best thing both can do is let the commentators prattle away, and make their own decisions – Ed about what to say, David about what to do – in their own way.

There was one part of David’s speech – no more cliques, no more factions, no more soap opera – where I worried that neither of them really had the power to realise that desirable outcome. No more cliques and factions – difficult in politics but yes, entirely possible if everyone takes a grown up attitude to things. No more soap opera? With our media, virtually impossible. Even our broadsheet media, let alone the tabloids and the increasingly tabloidised broadcasters, are too far gone in their addiction to politics as soap opera. A factor, perhaps, as David weighs things up.

  • Mark B

    It was a very moving speech on many levels – from the personal to the serious policy content. I have to admit I shed a few tears. Think DM was right to make a stand against the soap opera which diminishes British politics, not necessarily only caused by the media.

  • Mark Wright

    Unfortunately the only way the soap opera and endless speculation will come to an end is if David exits the political stage completely.

    If he doesn’t then every nuance of every word, every perceived ambiguity in facial expression, every statement that appears to be anything less than a 100% ringing endorsement of his brother will be analysed and pored over by the press ad infinitum. David’s excellent conference speech this morning will have done little to assuage the doubters of Milli-junior that Big Bro was not the better choice.

    The right-wing (and even moderate) press will use David’s continued presence to continue the narrative of the ‘Blair/Brown’ story. It will dog Ed Milliband’s chances of forging a new consensus in the party every step of the way and neither brother will ever be free of leadership speculation all the time both brothers remain in front-line politics.

    If I was David I’d walk.

  • Melissa Hardman

    Part of the problem is that the media don’t just cover it all as part of a soap opera, but constantly insert themselves as actors in it, not just the ego-maniacal TV commentators, but the way that what the papers say is thought to be a story in its own right. I have never known an era when the papers and media generally are so divorced from what people care about, and how deeply they care.

  • Chris Morley

    Bit of genie and bottle going on here AC. You surfed the waves better than anyone, and now that others are getting washed away by it, you don’t like it. I dislike the media coverage of politics as much as anyone but until the politicians stop making it obvious how much they care about it, it won’t change. To be fair you are very clear you have had enough with the lot of them, but even the new generation seem to want to play the old media rules. Break free, young Ed!!

  • Hilary King

    Not only do we have the Brothers storyline, but coming down the tracks the Couple — if David walks, will Ed make Ed shadow chancellor, or hand it to Yvette … now a message from our sponsors

  • Hamish

    Disappointing though it would be, it’s very difficult to see how DM can stay on for the long term. There’s a bit too much Jeffrey Archer (Cane and Abel) in the story and this will just become a nuisance and a hindrance, with more downside than upside fictional potential in the tale. This seems to be the general sense – that any scenario that has DM on the inside will have its awkwardnesses. I’m sure none of this would have arisen if the result had gone the other way. It’s an awful indictment of the electoral process that it has panned out this way. I wish Ed all the best and I’m more confident than not that it will work out OK for Labour, but the result creates more luggage than the party needed at the moment and risks losing the party a significant talent.



  • Mark Wright

    If Ed Balls retains any semblance of power in the party then Labour can kiss goodbye to ever being in power again. It doesn’t help having the likes of Charlie Wheelan doing the media rounds with a look so smug one really does get the urge to shove his head down the toilet and with repeated flushes.

    I watched Ed Balls’ interview on Sunday where he couldn’t bring himself to be gracious about David Milliband even after his defeat. A horrible man who’ll do anything, say anything to further his quest for power. Yuk.

    I predicted Ed Milliband would win some time ago (my head said David, my heart said Ed). He shows spark and passion (his brother only chose to show this AFTER his defeat – a bit like Al Gore in the US election of 2000) and will have to pull a blinder tomorrow to steady the ship. I think he will.

    In the meantime, the best thing Red-Ed could do (worryingly catchy that nickname isn’t it?) is to put several political light-years between himself and likes of Wheelan/Balls et al.

    We’ll be back after these short messages. Don’t go away…

  • Don Jones67

    Sadly, I do believe the Labour Party has made a huge mistake in electing Ed Miliband as leader. I do not question his political abilities, but just like Gordon Brown before him, he will not connect with the electorate – and this is curcial in modern day politics. David Miliband would certainly have done, and this could mean that yet again, Labour has gone for the wrong man, which just might mean that it will out of power for years to come.

  • Scooke7

    As a long-time hater of the BBC and the TV tax (licence fee), I am glad that you (AC) have finally coined the term “tabloidised broadcasters”. Now, can we all agree that the licence fee should be abolished and the BBC should find some other way of generating £3.5 b per year they need to run? Mark Thompson needs to earn £800k+ a year? And Paxman, who is going to be at the forefront of producing/directing this soap opera is paid even more? If only the BBC could be sent up in a puff of smoke…

  • Sarah-dodds

    As a new party member and totally new to all of this, I can’t help but think that Ed can only be as succesful as
    a) he wants to be
    b) the press allow him to be
    c) the party allow him to be.
    a) and b) we can do bog all about as members. But c) is a different story. Which is why if I attend another CLP meeting which is no more than a “talking/whinging/ but we are going to do naff all about it shop” I may implode. And if another seasoned party member ignores what help I can give and I am trying to offer whilst insisting they have been doing this for years I may just give up.
    As members, can we please just bloody well get on with it, find the local issues that REALLY MATTER and get on with doing and not just blowing mildly luke warm air?????
    Or have I made a very naive mistake..?

  • Julie

    Shed a few tears? I was sobbing like Juliet Stevenson in ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’! It will be a tragedy for the party if he doesn’t stay – he will be seen in the future as an important figure in the history of the Labour Party.

  • Richard Brittain

    I agree. The Times gets sleazier every day; it, and other broadsheets, are living off their past reputation. I think it might be time to abolish freedom of the press and restore the power of throne, with Alastair Campbell king.

  • Craig W Thomas

    Oh, right, so you want to let the media run our politics in an even more destructive way than it already does…Nice one, Mark.

  • Robert Jackson

    If it’s true Ed M can solve the Rubik cube in 80 seconds, getting those 54 coloured squares to face where where they are supposed to face by shuffling them about in a logical fashion, he should be able to make a winning team from just about any shadow cabinet our Labour’s MP’s throw at him!

  • Superted

    I wish Ed all the best. David seemed a more experienced and heavyweight candidate. However, after his years in high profile government and cabinet positions he did little to really win over supporters from the general public or from within the LP. He certainly didnt excite me or inspire me as Foreign Secretary though he seemed to be able enough. Perhaps seen as too close to TB. I hope he stays and matures. He’s young enough to get another chance. Hopefully amicably- after Ed’s two terms……..

  • Teresa

    I feel exited about the future of the Labour Party, I think Ed comes across so well so confident, and being younger I think he has more of a sense that things can be changed,and he makes us believe it too, he makes us believe that the self obsessed waffling poor excuse for a goverment have not got it all wrapped up.

  • Chris lancashire

    The Times remains an excellent newspaper with high journalistic standards.

  • Ehtch

    I blame Coronation Street myself, that is when it all started in this country and then spread into mainstream media. Yes, of course…

  • Jamie Reed MP

    In 2005 the newly elected Labour intake formed the ‘Labour Renewal Group’ – a body designed explicitly to excise the Blair/Brown schism in the PLP. The group was short lived but the desire of that intake to heal that divide was genuine. The most enthusiastic advocate of what the group tried to achieve – at least from my perspective – was Ed Miliband.

    He was a party unifier then; he’s a party unifier now and his political home is the centre.

    There is all the difference in the world between campaigns designed to win party elections and those designed to win national elections. Nuance, tone and language are more important in prty campaigns than policy pledges and hardline commitments.

    John McCain won his party’s nomination with a tack to the centre and an appeal to the wider country. In the election that followed, he fought a poor campaign aimed at his party’s base. He was hammered.

    Despite David and Ed running very different leadership campaigns – their analysis of what the party must do and where it must go is very similar.

    There will not be any ‘leftwards lurch’ – though everything will be seen through a jaundiced right wing media prism. Big deal – we always have been.

    As for David…I hope he stays. Cliques are not inevitable – but one of the lessons of my five years as an MP has been that it is the people around leaders, rather than leaders themselves, who so often sow divisions, create factions and build cliques. Neither Miliband will tolerate a repeat of this – nor I suspect will the party membership.

  • terry martin

    Labour are finished and are now unelectable and once the boundary changes take effect the labour party will be like alastair. HISTORY

  • Craig W Thomas

    “…even 32% of Labour supporters think government plans will improve the economy.”

    From the Guardian Oct 2nd on ICM poll. Proof, if any were actually still needed, how the public has been completely let down or deliberately lied to by the media on all fronts. The Condemned has told us through these media that “there is no alternative” to cuts and pain. Anyone who has read Paul Krugman knows that’s Bollox with a captital ‘F.’ Murdoch loves the Tories (for the moment) and the Beeb is terrified of reprisals if its interviewers play hard ball.

    How we hit back is indeed A question, but we need to keep hammering home the message that the public has been and is being lied to.