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Miliband Gains Momentum

Amid U.K. hacking scandal, Jewish Labour leader thrives

Stephanie Butnick
August 08, 2011
Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, in London in June. (Ben Gurr - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, in London in June. (Ben Gurr - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

British Labour party leader Ed Miliband gets the Times treatment, with a flattering profile of the politician who, until the News of the World hacking scandal broke last month, many publicly considered a poor choice as the party leader. Worse, the preferred candidate was his older brother, David. But now, as Prime Minister David Cameron’s cozy relationship with Rupert Murdoch and his News International company has become a political liability, the younger Miliband seems to have found his moment, actively criticizing the too-close relationship between the Britain’s politicians and press.

Miliband, who told the Times, “I’ve always felt my home is in Britain, but I love being in America,” is a Boston Red Sox fan whose favorite U.S. president is Theodore Roosevelt. He comes from a family of Polish Jews (his maternal grandfather died at Auschwitz) who sought refuge in the U.K., which, oddly enough, according to the article, “has engendered a strong sense of gratitude and rootedness in Britain.” His admiration for the U.S. is being seen as part of a larger, post-hacking shift:

“It is rare for a British politician, particularly one with roots in the traditional, leftist wing of the Labour Party like Mr. Miliband, to speak with such unguarded enthusiasm of the United States, particularly in ways that make for unflattering comparisons with Britain. But it is the House of Commons’ summer recess, the end of the first parliamentary term since Mr. Miliband was elected leader of the Labour Party last fall, and his admiration for American civics is more than a graceful nod to American visitors. At least for now, it is a measure of a new spirit engendered by the turmoil over what seems to have been a wave of criminality in British tabloid newsrooms, the biggest scandal of its kind to hit Britain in 50 years.”

Ben Jacobs introduced Miliband to the Scroll last month, explaining, “He essentially comes from the British equivalent of the Upper West Side (and not just because he’s from a secular Jewish left-wing background). He has degrees from Oxford and the London School of Economics and spent a decade working as a speechwriter and policy adviser for Gordon Brown before being elected to Parliament in 2005. He had been considered one of the party’s rising stars and joined the cabinet in 2007, once Brown had become prime minister.”

But those looking forward to the first Jewish prime minister since (debatably) Benjamin Disreali might want to be patient—Jacobs said there’s little chance for Miliband to become Prime Minister until the next election for the House of Commons.

“There’s no plausible scenario in the short-term. It is very hard in modern British politics to bring down a sitting government in the middle of a Parliament. However, sometime between now and June 2015, there will have to be an election for the House of Commons, and it seems more likely than not as of this moment that Labour would win that election and Ed Miliband would become prime minister.”

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.