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.