Stalin used to talk about socialism in one country, but Labour today seems to have opted for socialism in one family. Ed Milliband’s views are marginally to the left of his brother’s, but that’s not why they chose him. He may, as Neil Kinnock seems to be saying, have a more common touch than his brother, but that’s not it either. He is leader because he was not an MP when we went to war in Iraq.
The rejection of his brother is, quite simply, a way of putting two fingers up to Tony Blair. It’s a way of saying: we may have followed Blair for a decade and a half, but we hated his guts. Ed never had to make the career-destroying decision about whether to vote for war in Iraq or not. David voted for it; that’s why he’s not leader today. Harriet Harman voted for it; that’s why she’s so tainted by the Blair years that she sensibly decided not to run.
Robin Cook voted against it, which is why the most promising political career in the Blair generation petered out. John Denham voted against it, which is why he had to spend all those years in the wilderness – otherwise he’d have been in line for a pop at the leadership by now.
No one who voted for it would be acceptable. Anyone who voted against it had his career halted in its tracks by Blair. Ed can get the best of both worlds. He wasn’t there, and can claim he would have voted against it if he had been. So he’s got a chance – a slim one – of putting the grubby superficiality of the Blair years behind the Party. He’ll have to be an exceptional person to do it. I hope he is. We’ll find out.