British Labour politician
Born 1965

David Miliband has been the Member of Parliament for South Shields since 2001, and is currently serving under Gordon Brown as the Foreign Secretary, whilst his younger brother Ed Miliband, is also in the Cabinet as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. However whilst brother Ed is a favourite of Prime Minister Brown, David himself is often regarded as the great white hope of the Blairite wing of the Labour Party.

Early life and Career

Born in London on the 15th July 1965, David Wright Miliband was the elder of the two sons of Ralph Miliband and his wife Marion Kozak. His father was born in Belgium, although his family had only recently relocated there from Poland, and originally bore the name of Adolphe Miliband. Given that the family were Jews, they were naturally anxious regarding the German invasion of Belgium, and Adolphe succeeded in getting aboard one of the last ships to cross the English Channel in May 1940. Once in Britain the young Adolphe changed his name to Ralph for fairly obvious reasons, and subsequently became a leading Marxist theoretician and one of principal figures associated with what was called the British New Left.

David grew up at the family home in Primrose Hill and began his education at the local Primrose Hill Primary School, but since his father spent the years between 1972 and 1978 as the Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds, he then went to a primary school near Leeds and also attended Benton Park School for a year, before his father decamped to Brandeis University in Boston. After a brief spell at school in Boston the family returned to London where he attended the Haverstock School in Chalk Farm and received the bulk of his education. He wasn't an outstanding student at school and obtained a Grade 'D' in Physics A-level, together with 3 Grade 'B's, but nevertheless won a place to read philosophy, politics and economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford thanks to an Inner London Education Authority scheme to get pupils from the city's comprehensives into Oxford; although as one cynic pointed out, "it's hard to imagine that David Miliband was the kind of deprived inner-city pupil the founders had in mind".

Once at Oxford he was nicknamed 'Donny' because of his haircut and his so-called 'Colgate smile', and became Junior Common Room accommodation officer, before being voted Junior Common Room president halfway through his second year. He nevertheless studied with sufficient rigour to achieve a first, following which he studied for a masters degree in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a Kennedy Scholar. After completing his masters degree, he returned to Britain and went to work for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, leaving there in 1989 to become a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research).

Political Career

Although Miliband does not appear to have been particularly active in student politics, before going up to Oxford he had spent the summer working for Ken Livingstone, then a newly elected member of the Greater London Council, and received the gift of a Sony Walkman in return for his efforts. Having been a member of the Labour Party since 1981, in 1992 he was appointed as secretary of the Commission on Social Justice, which had been established by John Smith, then Labour Party leader. After the Commission's final report, Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal was published in 1994, shortly afterwards he became head of policy for Tony Blair, who had become leader of the Labour Party following the sudden death of the aforementioned John Smith. Miliband was subsequently said to have made a significant contribution to the Labour Party manifesto for 1997, and following Labour's victory in the General Election of May 1997, he was appointed to the Downing Street Policy Unit, becoming head of the unit in 1998.

Whilst he was at Downing Street, he was christened 'Brains' by Alastair Campbell. This was unfortunately not so much a reference to his intellect, but rather a reference to his resemblance to the Thunderbirds character of that name, which may well explain why Miliband later ditched the spectacles and took to wearing contact lenses. Nevertheless Miliband was placed at the heart of the government's policy development during Blair's first term, a position which naturally assisted his future political career.

With twenty-five days to go before the General Election of 2001, one David Clarke announced his intention to stand down from the House of Commons. This naturally provided the perfect opportunity for Miliband to be parachuted into the ultra-safe seat of South Shields, and was duly elected on the 7th June with a majority of 14,090. Once in the House of Commons, Miliband received the benefit of one of the most rapid ministerial promotions in recent history when he was appointed as the Minister of State in the Department for Education and Skills on the 29th May 2002, after the departure of Stephen Byers forced Blair into a reshuffle. As the school standards minister and deputy to the Secretary of State for Education, Estelle Morris, he soon displayed his "mastery of politics" by disappearing off on a fact-finding mission to Scotland, leaving his boss to deal with the flack from the so-called A-level fiasco.

When Tony Blair was subsequently forced into another reshuffle following the resignation of David Blunket, Miliband replaced Ruth Kelly as the Minister of State in the Cabinet Office on the 16th December 2004. He remained there for only a few months, as following Labour's victory in the General Election of 2005, he was appointed as the Minister of State for Communities and Local Government on the 11th May 2005. This office brought with it a seat in the Cabinet although he was not given the title of Secretary of State as the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, was officially in charge of those portfolios. Less than a year later, Prime Minister Blair felt obliged to reshuffle his government once more after a poor set of Local Election results, and on the 5th May 2006 Miliband succeeded Margaret Beckett as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

At Defra he was occupied with trying to sort out the chaos at the Rural Payments Agency he had inherited from his predecessor, and was obliged in June 2006 to promise that his department would at least pay interest on the money it had failed to pay farmers. He also floated the idea of a Carbon Credit Card as part of a nationwide carbon rationing scheme, and commissioned a feasibility study from the Centre for Sustainable Energy. However, although the proposal was discussed at Cabinet level, no more was heard of the idea

Leadership Ambitions

Although Miliband's first admitted career ambition was to be a bus conductor, others have claimed that he had his heart set on becoming Prime Minister whilst at Oxford. He was certainly favoured by Tony Blair and during the final years of Blair's leadership Miliband came to seen as the chosen son. However although it was widely rumoured that he would stand as the Blairite candidate in the contest for the party leadership, in the end he put his name to Gordon Brown's nomination papers as did the remaining 90% or so of the parliamentary party. Following the subsequent coronation of Gordon Brown as the Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, on the 28th June 2007 he was appointed Foreign Secretary and became the youngest to hold that office since the days of David Owen. As Foreign Secretary he was obliged to sign the Treaty of Lisbon on behalf of the United Kingdom on the 13th December 2007, due to the fact that Gordon Brown was otherwise engaged at the time.

He is often referred to as being one of the leading members of the Primrose Hill Set (political version), although Miliband is said to have kept himself apart from ultra-Blairites such as Stephen Byers, Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn, he is widely regarded as being the best last hope of the Blairites in Gordon Brown's Age of Change. The Observer reported in November 2007 that Miliband was feeling excluded from the Number 10 inner circle, and that he was unhappy that Malloch Brown had been foisted upon him as his deputy and that a pro-European speech he'd planned on delivering in Bruges had been modified on Brown's orders. The message from the Brown camp at the time was that Miliband was orchestrating a campaign to 'destabilise' the Prime Minister. Then on the 29th July 2008 The Guardian published an article of his under the title 'Against all odds we can still win, on a platform for change', in which he claimed that Labour could still win the next election if it adopted a programme of radical new change". However since he failed to once mention the name of Gordon Brown, this was widely interpreted (particularly in the aftermath of defeat in the Glasgow East by-election) as a sign that Miliband was preparing the ground for a bid for the leadership.

It was widely claimed that Miliband had already reached an understanding with James Purnell, whilst the Daily Telegraph of the 6th August claimed that he had also struck a deal with Alan Milburn. Such stories naturally brought forth the response that once again Miliband was seeking to 'destabilise' Brown, and that he was being disloyal. Equally naturally Miliband denied that he was plotting against Brown and claimed that reports of any deal with Milburn were a "work of fiction". It was nevertheless perfectly clear that Miliband was indeed positioning himself to be a challenger for the position of Labour leader; the only question was whether he intended to launch his campaign before or after the next General Election. However although his proponents claim that he is sufficiently "young, fresh and televisual" to challenge the likes of David Cameron, his detractors have notes that despite the fact that he has held ministerial office since 2002, Miliband has never managed to hold any particular office long enough to actually deliver anything, and he has been dismissed by some such as Simon Jenkins as "a thinktanker rather than an executive".


Miliband once briefly dated Ruth Kelly, in 1998 he eventually married Louise Shackleton, a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra, whom he once met on a plane. They have two sons named Isaac and Jacob, both of whom were adopted shortly after their birth in the United States. The Milibands were able to do this as Louise held American citizenship, and were therefore able to effectively bypass the more rigorous regime that applied in the United Kingdom. Some British adoption charities questioned their reasons for choosing the American route given that there were some 60,000 children waiting for adoption in Britain, although the answer was presumably because there was a recognised 'shortage' of new-born babies being put up for adoption amongst that 60,000. Miliband himself refused to answer questions regarding the exact "circumstances surrounding the adoption" or indeed of whether or not he had entered into any financial arrangements with the respective natural mothers.

His main recreation is said to be football, and he is a supporter of both Arsenal FC and of South Shields FC, and is the president of the latter club. He was the editor of Reinventing the Left (1994) and joint editor (with Andrew Glyn) of Paying for Inequality: Economic Cost of Social Justice (1994), whilst in December 2005 he became the first Cabinet minister to launch an online diary or blog, as he boldly declared that he intended to "bridge the gap between politicians and the public". However in June 2006 the Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne criticised the amount of public money being devoted to the exercise, and asked "How can it cost £40,000 a year of taxpayers' money for staff to capture David Miliband's hot air on climate change?" Nevertheless Miliband has continued with his blogging efforts, and they continue unabated at https://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/miliband/.

He is also said to have an avatar in Second Life.


SOURCES

  • Official biography which was at www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page7463.asp but has now spookily disappeared
  • Biographies: Lipman, Miliband & Saville
    http://www.lipman-miliband.org.uk/biographies.html
  • MILIBAND, Rt Hon. Edward, Who's Who 2008, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007
  • MILIBAND, David Rt Hon from Blakes Parliamentary Yearbook
    http://www.parliamentaryyearbook.co.uk/mp-member/miliband-david-rt-hon.html
  • Rt Hon David Miliband MP
    http://www.politicalwizard.co.uk/administration/pwapp/home.php?
    uid=&SD=3cb0f76b0e2d829d675eada5d361c000&app=db&defn=1&type=1&org=4158&biog=15334
  • Rebecca Smithers, Meet the new boy, The Guardian, June 4, 2002
    http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,727020,00.html
  • Andrew Rawnsley, Heir to Blair?, The Observer, Sunday October 20 2002
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/oct/20/schools.labour
  • Breakfast with Frost, interview with the Schools Minister, David Miliband MP. 17 August 2003
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast_with_frost/3158091.stm
  • Alexandra Blair, Popular intellectual on fast track to No 10, The Times, December 16, 2004
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article403072.ece
  • Andrew Norfolk, Blair's lieutenant adopts American baby, The Times, December 31, 2004
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article407171.ece
  • Patrick Hennessy, Minister faces row over 'fast-track' baby adoption 01 Jan 2005
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1480244/Minister-faces-row-over-fast-track-baby-adoption.html
  • Robert Winnett, Revealed: minister's links to nuclear lobby, The Sunday Times May 14, 2006
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article717892.ece
  • Henry Deedes, £40,000 - the real cost of reading David's diary, The Independent, 16 June 2006
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/pandora/16340000--the-real-cost-of-reading-davids-diary-404208.html
  • Paul Reynolds, Profile: David Miliband, BBC News, 2 July 2007
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6248508.stm
  • Nicholas Watt, Disaffected. Left out. Unhappy, The Observer, November 18 2007
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/nov/18/labour.gordonbrown
  • Benedict Brogan, David Miliband accused of mounting a campaign to 'destabilise' Gordon Brown, Daily Mail, 18 November 2007
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-494816/David-Miliband-accused-mounting-campaign-destabilise-Gordon-Brown.html
  • Ted Verity, We called him Donny Osmond, Mail on Sunday, 1st June 2008
    http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/news/article-1023284/We-called-Donny-Osmond---How-Oxford-friends-Miliband-saw-man-PM.html
  • Fred Attewill, Profile: David Miliband, The Guardian, June 28 2007
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/jun/28/gordonbrown.labour
  • Simon Jenkins, A very British way to choose a ruler - down at one's club, The Guardian, Wednesday August 6 2008
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/06/davidmiliband.gordonbrown
  • David Miliband MP Ministerial Blog
    http://www.digitaldialogues.org.uk/interimreport/parttwo/miliband

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