on 27 August 2011
Most biographies of newly-elected party leaders fall into the trap of being gushing hagiographies by star struck admirers , (I am old enough to remember some of the early biographies of Margaret Thatcher, which read like the biographies of medieval saints -with the godhead emerging from the woman as the story reaches its climax.)or (like many of the early Tony Blair biographies)- they make a number of factual errors.
This book does not fall into these traps.the authors are broadly supportive of Ed Milliband, but are willing to criticise him.they have done their research and make few factual errors.their style is accessible and readable ,even if you are not a political geek, you will find the book interesting.
I found the book particularly strong on Millibands family backgound and his time as a cabinet minister under Gordon Brown.
Of course , at this stage in his career- this can only be an interim assessment of Ed Milliband. His performance over the phone hacking scandal bore out the biographies main theme that Milliband is not quite the dud that the tabloid press thought -and hoped he was.
However, he is by no means a "Prime Minister-in -waiting " yet and the road to Downing Street may be long and hard , with no guarantee the destination will ever be reached.
on 7 October 2012
If you're thinking you need to know a bit more about Ed Miliband having seen his most recent conference speech, which has made a good few people take him more seriously it seems, this is a good read. It won't detain you long, seems pretty well researched, and gives you what you need to know if you want to know what makes him tick. It's got three new chapters from the previous edition, which take you through the 2012 local elections and phone hacking so go for this one if you're looking for something more recent. Others have commented that the previous edition is pretty fair minded: I was surprised at how balanced this book is given that I'd expected both of the authors to be sympathetic to his point of view. It's not at all a puff piece. Worth a read, though like other Biteback books could have done with a bit more of an edit in parts.
I am writing this review as a total outsider, who is intensely interested in British politics. Blame BBC's "Democracy Live" and the UK Parliament websites. I have been watching the House of Commons debates since 2009/10, but I wanted to find out more from what I read on the political pages of the newspapers (on all sides of the political spectrum, incidentally). And, after reading "Ed", I did learn a lot about Labour Party politics as well as the selection process, which had been a bit of a mystery to me previously.
Although I recognise that the account is definitely pro-Ed, and is certainly designed to promote his credibility as party leader (with 2115 in mind), I nevertheless found the narrative compelling. I enjoyed the book immensely. The journalist/authors have included photographs (including one of the two Eds looking incredibly young); they have also used copious footnotes, admitting that because of political realities, they have had to attribute many of their sources to 'private information.' If one were to find a fault with the book, it would be in the subtitle: "The Milibands", for until the last third of the book, it is all about Ed and his considerable capabilities. His brother hardly enters the narrative until the Leadership contest.
Nevertheless, with its dynamics of interfamilial rivalry, not only within Mr Miliband's actual family but also within his political 'family', "Ed" reads like the scenario for a political thriller--or a Greek tragedy.
I simply could not put it down!
Authors of the best accounts of the New Labour years delved deeply into the rival Brownite and Blairite versions of events before coming to their own conclusions. Those who did not frequently ended up with embarrassingly lopsided and inaccurate accounts.
Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre, the authors of Ed: The Milibands and the making of a Labour leader, have avoided making the next generation’s version of the same mistake by talking to both sides of the Miliband family, even returning more than once to the conundrum of when Ed told David he was going to run against him for leader. The different versions of events from across the brotherly divide flatly contradict each other and, as the authors rightly point out, that is not a promising sign for a harmonious future.
Aside from balancing these conflicting camps well, the book also handles skilfully the fact that with such a new leader to write about, there is so far very little hindsight available with which to make sense of his earlier career. Yet due to the book’s balanced approached, whether Ed Miliband is a success or a failure, the explanations are likely to be found in the book. Most notably, it recounts several of the high profile campaigns he has run, from student politician through to Cabinet minister, which have two themes in common: successfully involving a large number of people yet also failing in the end to deliver the main objectives with Ed Milband eagerly trying to describe failure as success. Whether he should succeed or fail, that is a record that future biographers with the advantage of hindsight will merrily return to in order to give their explanations.
Where the book struggles rather more is in explaining quite what Ed Miliband really believes. The book goes through various occasions where it has been claimed he was critical of the Blair/Brown governments, weighing up the evidence and concluding that on several occasions he did indeed dissent, albeit usually very privately. Yet in parallel with this account of a thoughtful critical friend, the book also presents an account of someone who was extremely loyal to Gordon Brown, opposing plots against him and insisting that he should not be ousted before the 2010 general election. Ed Miliband appears to have been at the same time both more critical of Brown than other Brownites yet also the loyalest of the loyal to Brown.
Ed Miliband appears to have wanted to both have his cake and eat it. This unresolved question does at least explain the curiosity of the book finding plenty of evidence of Ed Miliband thinking of standing for Labour leader well before a vacancy arose, yet also when it came to it being horribly unprepared and having to fight through organisational chaos for several weeks. It was as if he had been both wanting to stand yet also not want to do so – hence talking about it yet not preparing for it.
More positively, what comes through clearly is how important being nice has been to his political career. A large part of the reason he was able to present himself in the leadership contest as the man to leave behind the old Blair-Brown struggles, despite having been such a central Brownite figure, is that – to put it in an old fashioned way – whilst many of his colleagues spent their years in governments swearing at others, he spent the years showing good manners.
One area the book does not shed any light on is the almost comical lack of preparedness for hung Parliament negotiations by the Labour Party. Despite many in the party for a long time thinking their best hope was to be the largest party in a hung Parliament, when a hung Parliament did occur, Labour was unprepared for negotiations. Ed Balls only discovered shortly before the first meeting with the Liberal Democrats that he was on the negotiating team, for example, and his preparations for that involved a quick chat over a cup of tea just beforehand with Peter Mandelson.
Yet Ed Miliband should have been central to a proper preparation process. As prime author of the manifesto, he should have been thinking – however infrequently – about what might or might not work in a hung Parliament. As one of Gordon Brown’s closest advisors he should have been reminding the then Prime Minister that a hung Parliament would then require talks and talks require preparation.
His failures in this regard are not simply a matter of historical curiosity because if the truth is that he (like many others) was so lost in traditional Labour tribalism that he failed to grasp a hung Parliament wouldn’t simply be a matter of Gordon Brown telling other parties what to do, then how likely as leader is he to be at getting the pluralism he occasionally talks about right?
That said, the authors are by no means unthinking apologists for Labour and make the powerful point that in one respect the die is already cast for Ed Miliband’s leadership: during those early days when he could set the public’s perception of him there was no single iconic picture. Contrast that with David Cameron and the controversial but (in part for that very reason) successful huskies photograph.
As they add, “Mischievous critics of the Labour leader have suggested there is such a snap: Ed hugging his defeated brother … The perceived void over what Ed stands for risks being filled by a definition probably most recognisable to the pubic: that he is the man who ‘shafted’ his brother”.
At the early stage in his leadership at which this book was written it can’t hope to answer for sure the question of whether Ed Miliband’s leadership will ever amount to more than that. But this book does a good job at filling in the background against which we can all speculate.
I know that he's not everyone's' favourite person, but I don't feel any shame in writing that I do like Ed Miliband, and consider him a good man with good intentions, although not ideal leadership material for the Labour party, his brother David would probably have been the better option. I just hope that people won't thumb this review down because of this, as my comments on the 'Daily Mail' website have so frequently been.
This easy-to-read book, seemingly well researched, is fairly written without any real noticeable bias present. The bio is a good insight into Ed Miliband, his life so far, what makes this ambitious man tick, his beliefs, principles, and interests. There is a wealth of information about the background of the Miliband family, as well as a good documentation about the breakdown of the relationship between the two brothers when Ed ran for leader of the party. Do I still like Mr. Ed Miliband after reading this book? Absolutely! Don't believe all what you read in the newspapers, I have always known that the man is no fool like he is often perceived to be, and I believe this book confirms this.
After reading 'Ed: The Milibands and the making of a Labour leader', I feel as though I know a lot more about the man who will never become Prime Minister, and enjoyed my many discoveries. Congratulations to the authors James Macintyre and Mehdi Hasan for producing such a readable, informative, and worthwhile political biography.
I approached this book with some trepidation: I am a member of the Labour Party, a David supporter and I wanted to know what make Ed Miliband tick. My doubt concerned the prospect of the first biography being anything other than propaganda, either pro or anti Ed.
This book does not fall into this trap and is a worthwhile read. It tries very hard to be scrupulously fair to both parties and is as near the truth as we are likely to get. This does not mean that it provides all the answers; indeed, I would be more sceptical were it to promise so to do.
Ed is portrayed as the quieter, more thoughtful and more people orientated of the Milibands. He is obviously clever and willing to listen to others: of course, a strength can also be a weakness. As the Leader of the Labour Party, Ed should be leading from the front. He is not. His first action was to take two weeks paternity leave and, whilst I fully support the idea of a father being around for the early days of his prodigy's life, the timing was, to say the least, unfortunate. Even upon his return, Ed's approach seems to have been more, "So, what do you think?", than, "Here's what we'll do!"
The only clear message coming from Ed is that we need to ditch New Labour. For the first time in history, Labour won three elections in a row but, one defeat and everything must go. Why is this a leftist attitude? One does not see a defeated Tory leader say, "Right, we had better jettison the rich because we lost the last election."
The big question that this book fails to answer, but which I suspect will never receive a full response is, why did Ed decide to take on his brother, David? The, unproven, answer seems to be that Ed has spent his life following David to the same schools and universities and, for once, he wanted to beat David to the prize. On a personal level, that is great and well done Ed but, he seems to have genuinely not appreciated that in so doing, he was destroying his brother's career. Of more pertinence to the general public, the other problem is that Ed seems to have concentrated upon getting the post but have no idea as to what to do once there. Tony Blair announced his intention to scrap clause four of the Labour Party constitution almost before the votes were counted; Ed has said, "Er...."
The only part of this work that really irritated me was the description of the actual contest. If this book is to be believed, David was grumpy throughout in some expectation that he was to have been presented with the leadership. Were David to have behaved as boorishly as the authors suggest, it is hard to see how he ended up winning the vote of the general membership and, even less likely, the Parliamentary group, who, presumably, knew him reasonably well.
This book offers hope, to we supporters, that we have not entered another long spell of Tory rule. I fear that it may be false hope, but at least it is something to cling onto as the welfare state is slowly de-constructed.
on 28 December 2013
I learned a lot from this book. It was enlightening about Ed Miliband' s family background, both parents having escaped persecution in different countries in Europe. His growing up in a household steeped in politics led to his understanding of the need for an underlying framework of political philosophy as a background to decision making. This,I think, will stand him in good stead when events demand quick responses. The book outlined the several occasions where he has surprised us with strong,courageous stands against powerful interests. I found it an enjoyable and fascinating read.
on 25 July 2011
It is necessary to distinguish the book from its subject. Edward Miliband is noted for being 'rational, intellectual and political' according to this account, and that seems justified: it sounds as if the family talked about little but politics when most of us with children would talk about less intense things. But, to adapt another saying, what do they know of politics who only politics know? And Mr Miliband has only been outside the political world when he took a year off to study at Harvard. He emerges as a person of no particular political persuasion but one who got where he is because of the patronage of Gordon Brown and some unshrewd canvassing by his brother and his brother's team.
The book has its minor difficulties (the MP Chuka Umunna's name is rather variable in its spelling, and there are some typos) but as a piece of contemporary history it seems to me to be a good effort. The account of the ghastly extended Labour leadership campaign in the summer of 2010 is going to be a resource for future historians. The authors approach their subject from a leftish perspective: on page 279 "Ed" has 'rightly' resisted pressure to disown Labour's appalling fiscal record in Government. The account of Mr Miliband's time in the Cabinet concentrates on his propagandising on behalf of "climate change" (when in the view of many of us he should have been securing energy sources for the future, and not pursuing policies that would harm the third world). But the authors offer a sound analysis of Mr Miliband's background and attitudes, and I felt better informed after reading this.
They make a very brief reference to Mr Miliband's to me very curious way of speaking (someone once said that he seemed to have two tongues in his mouth: I find myself concentrating on his vocalisation rather than what he is saying) and perhaps this might have figured in their analysis. But this is not a eulogy and the account of the difficulties between the Miliband brothers is very well evidenced.
I recommend the book, whatever your (and my) view of its subject.
on 5 October 2014
Very informative book about an interesting political figure.
You read about Ed's childhood, his years at the treasury, his time in the US and ofcourse the leadership election in 2010 and his time as Labour Party leader.
Good book, would recommend it to anyone interested i British politics. Good to read in advance of the 2015 general election.
I have no doubt Ed Miliband would be a great Prime Minister.
on 6 November 2014
A very interesting read, on the Ed: The Milibands and the making of a Labour leader. The book covers the life of both Ed & David, majority of it on Ed. It covers their life from birth to their life now, also being with the Labour Party, it also brings to life their parents involvement with Labour more so their Father, who was a great inspiration to both Ed & David. It's a good read, even if you are not interested in Labour.