Political Promise

More Opinion: Ed Beats David

In Vicky Wong on September 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

Vicky Wong comments on the election of Ed Miliband to the Labour leadership.

After living in the shadows of Miliband the elder, it’s a moment of triumph for Miliband the younger in his moment of redemption. Anyone with a sibling knows the tension. I myself, a second sibling with an older sister knows this only too well; little brother Ed, has had to deal with the stigma of being referred to either as “the other Miliband”, “David’s brother”, “Miliband the younger”, or “Miliband the minor”

Elder brother, David on the other hand, the one who possessed the prestigious title of (Shadow) Foreign Secretary, has been showered with praises of “a Foreign secretary with a good track record”, “the good looking one”, and who can forget Hilary Clinton’s “he’s so dashing and handsome”.

I can only be thankful that my elder sibling is pursuing a career that is radically different to what I hope to do (she is hoping to be a commercial airline pilot, myself hoping to enter political journalism).

Speculation has been growing as to whether or not David would serve under his younger brother. You can just see it all panning out in your mind like a comedy film. If the Lib Dem-Conservative “bromance” was like watching a romantic comedy about a gay wedding, the Miliband saga would be like watching a family friendly Disney comedy, where the first shadow cabinet meeting sees Ed telling his older brother what to do, instead of the other way round. Under “that older sibling glare” Big Brother David will scold him at the dinner table later that night for suggesting such and such a manifesto proposal at the meeting this morning, and for the nasty habits he displays at the meeting table, or for delivering a poor performance at PMQs.

It’s a field day for the media as one of the most famous political battles came to a conclusion on Friday 25th. As the media centres cook up commentaries, and satirical cartoons, and sketches on how Big Brother David will start throwing a tantrum, and taking out his anger on the younger brother, with Mummy Miliband sitting in the middle of the whole action. And then Mummy Miliband will resort to calm parenting and try encouraging the brothers to “share”, and tries to reason with big brother David that “Ed is your little brother, be nice”. The possibilities for political comedy are endless as journalists attempt to picture what the first shadow cabinet meeting will look like.

With the glare of the media, Ed is clearly going to give his brother a seat in the shadow cabinet, and David would be expected to serve. Choosing not to would invite a tirade of tabloid headlines of David refusing to be upstaged by his younger sibling. If anything, those in the media who ruthlessly feed on politician’s vulnerabilities will be incredibly disappointed if David deprives them of what could have been a good story.

It’s hard having more than one of the same family member pursuing the same career under the unforgiving glare of the media, because there is always that supposed feud or pressure or rivalry that we are led to believe exists when this happens. Famous families include the tennis duo that is the Williams sisters; the Corren journalists, Victoria and Giles; Princes Harry and William; playwright Tom Stoppard and his son Ed; Ralph Fiennes and his brother Joseph; Timothy Spall and his son Rafe and so on. These titles all stick as the minor in that relationship is sometimes referred to as either so-and-so’s son, whatshisname’s brother, and so on. These titles stick, and never go away.

As a second sibling, I see Ed’s victory as Labour leader as a moment of inspiration and redemption, and a rallying cry for younger siblings not to fear surpassing their elders because they see age as an impediment. Younger siblings may know the feeling, the pressure, and the expectations put unto you by the family. That you need to get better GCSE/A-level results than your elder, that you need to get into a better university, who’s the doctor, who’s the lawyer, who’s earning £20,000+ a year and so on. It’s a perpetual competition, and there is always that feeling that you will never be as good as the elder. And when you do, it is a glorious feeling.

People are waiting for the Miliband brothers to have their first big row, just as much as they are waiting for the coalition to file for divorce. Families fall out all the time, and siblings more so than anyone else. If the Miliband brothers were to have a row it would be the strongest metaphor for the Labour Party yet. Labour cannot afford fallout as public as two highflying siblings at the forefront. Some families can make amends and patch things up quickly, but for others, the feuds are bitter, long, and the most painful. The potential Miliband brother fallout, may well take the shape of the latter.

But like all younger siblings when they see the plight of the elder, there is the guilt that you have stolen the limelight from the elder brother or sister who has helped guide you, and inspired you in the first place. Ed has made no secret of the brotherly and unconditional affection he has for David, and his victory speech at the Labour party conference was filled with that tear jerking and display of humanity as he made his public declaration of love for his elder brother David. The bittersweet victory was clear when the brothers embraced and Ed looked close to tears, whilst Brother David put on a brave face. Hardly a cringeworthy moment but one with a lot of genuine emotion, and lacking in a lot of the shiny PR of David Cameron’s repeated “I love yous” to his spouse when he came claim the Conservative leadership.

No more is he Ed the younger, or even Ed, David’s younger brother. But emerging in his place from Manchester is Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party.

  1. Best sentence I’ve read all week: “People are waiting for the Miliband brothers to have their first big row, just as much as they are waiting for the coalition to file for divorce.”

  2. […] the new leader of the Labour Party. Nicole Berry first broke the news on the Sunday night, and Vicky Wong and Alex Gabriel were quick to comment soon after. Speaking of the rivalry of the two brothers, […]

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