Much has been made of David and Ed Miliband’s fraternal fight for the leadership of the Labour party already, perhaps too much. As Sophie Elmhirst of the New Statesman wrote despairingly on her Twitter, “a whole summer’s worth of “ooh they’re brothers” articles is an exhausting prospect”. I share your pain Sophie; share, and propose to deepen. Sorry.
Like many lefties desperate to bury New Labour’s era of remorseless compromises, I have wondered aloud whether the best Miliband to replace Gordon Brown would be the brothers’ Marxist father, Ralph (see David Herman’s blog on First Drafts). Admittedly, sadly, he is no longer with us (he died 16 years ago this week): but death was no impediment to the man recently elected Mayor of Tracy City, Tennessee.
A close friend and ally of the parental Milibands was Labour veteran Tony Benn—aficionados of the latter’s (highly entertaining) diaries may remember sporadic mentions of Ralph’s sons; Ed worked for Benn in his office as a teenager (one of the ‘Teabags’, as Benn calls them), and it’s fascinating to follow an old-fashioned socialist watching the brothers grow up from a near distance, affectionate but still sad at the path they take away from socialism, and away from their parents. I spent an afternoon with my head in Benn’s diaries to dig out a few highlights: