Friday, October 29, 2010

Ed Miliband is new Labour Party head

S Kalyana Ramanathan / London September 27, 2010

Edward Miliband, 40, has been elected the new leader of Britain’s second largest party, to succeed former Prime Minister and party leader, Gordon Brown.

He won with 50.65 per cent of party-member votes, defeating his elder brother David Miliband (49.65), four years his senior, by a wafer-thin margin. The result was announced late last evening at Manchester.

“I joined the party when I was 17. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe that one day I will lead this party,” he said, while addressing party members and supporters.

In the final run up to the election, five candidates were in the fray. Diane Abbott (first Afro-Caribbean woman to contest for the party leadership), Ed Ball, former education minister, Andy Burnham and the Miliband brothers. The voting took four rounds to decide the the leader, though a knock-out system. It saw Abbott leave the fray first, followed by Burnham, Balls and finally David Miliband.

Ed Miliband’s success was to a large extent made possible by the backing of the unions. He takes over as leader at a difficult time for the Labour party. It is barely recovering from a defeat in this year’s general election, after a 13-year reign under first Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown.

Speaking at the Andrew Marr show on BBC this morning, he said unity and humility were the key to the party’s future and it must blame itself for the defeat in the recent general election, not blame the electorates.

Ed Miliband is the son of Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband (whose father fled from Belgium during the second world war; he was earlier from Warsaw, Poland). He studied in Oxford and the London School of Economics, joining the Labour party when 17. He gradually rose to the position of cabinet minister in October 2008 (he was first elected to Parliament in 2005), when he was appointed minister for the then newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change. He held this charge till the general election defeat.

Accepting the leadership office, he first paid rich tribute to his brother (who was foreign minister till the Brown government stepped down) and said, “David, I love you so much as a brother. And, I have such extraordinary respect for the campaign that you ran. The strength and eloquence that you showed. And, you taught us the most important lesson. Which is, we can be the party that reaches out to the community and we can also be a serious party of government again.”

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