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February 2009
updated March 2009
updated April 2009
updated May 2009
updated September 2009
updated October 2009
updated November 2009
updated February 2010
updated May 2010
updated September 2011
updated February 2012
 

 

How many more prime ministers is David Miliband destined to be rumoured to succeed?

 

Hard to remember, but two years ago, David Miliband was being spoken of as a successor to Tony Blair.

And only six months ago, he thought he might take on Gordon Brown.

You can only become leader of the Labour Party with union support. And that, as the Daily Mail made graphically clear, doesn't exist. Not for David Miliband:

'We would be better off with Cameron': Union chief brands Miliband a 'smug and arrogant s***'

We live in a profane age but, even so, it is rare for a newspaper headline like that to be published. Rarer still for the same man to be the subject of two such headlines, and with only five days between them:

'Who the f*** are you to lecture me?': Russian minister's extraordinary rant at David Miliband

It seems that Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, was no more impressed with David Miliband than Derek Simpson, joint head of one of the UK's biggest unions, Unite.

A Whitehall source said: 'It was effing this and effing that ... It was not what you would call diplomatic language. It was rather shocking.'

Even more shocking when you realise that the man who provokes these responses is the UK's Foreign Secretary, with responsibility for the Diplomatic Service.

Mr Miliband was 'surprised' by the ferocity of the verbal attack and the nature of the language, an insider close to the Foreign Secretary added.

He may be surprised, but we aren't. Not any more.

These Foreign Secretaries get about a bit and his latest trip was to India:

Why did he think it was tactful or clever to deliver a speech declaring there was no such thing "as the war on terror" in the Taj Hotel in Mumbai where dozens of innocent people were killed in a hail of machine gun bullets by terrorists? Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group linked with the murderous attack, welcomed our Foreign Secretary's "positive comments!" ...
He also caused outrage with a simplistic approach to the Kashmir crisis which triggered outraged accusations in India of meddling and appeasement ...
He also caused grave offence by addressing his host, Pranab Mukherjee, 73, by his first name even though the veteran foreign minister called Miliband "Your Excellency".

The Indian Prime Minister is reputed to have written a letter of complaint to Gordon Brown about David Miliband's behaviour. If he did, it is unprecedented in international diplomacy.

Since the India trip, Irwin Stelzer has effectively written a letter of complaint on behalf of the US:

There is a rather significant impediment at the Foreign Office – the Foreign Secretary. Americans who have dealt with David Miliband confirm what many British journalists have long known. The Foreign Secretary is arrogant, given to lecturing veteran American diplomats on policies and regions of which he has only the most superficial knowledge.

According to his own estimation, David Miliband is "in tune with the 'I can' generation".

That may be, but his facility for upsetting people* threatens his own party. Major donors to the Labour Party don't get peerages any more and that leaves the party financially dependent on the unions, for David Miliband's success with which, please see above. Perhaps he meant it when he said in 2007:

we need to fight the instinct of bureaucracies and political parties to hold on to power

This leadership bid of his, aimed at the kamikaze wing of the Labour Party, would be all very well if they were the only people affected. But of course they're not.

David Miliband threatens our international relations. Even-handedly, it must be admitted, with no favour shown to old friends. And no dogma. He doesn't like dogma:

Labour’s success has been built on the Blair/Brown mantra that 'what counts is what works' ... from independence of the Bank of England to ASBOs to nuclear power, Labour ditched dogma and embraced common sense.

So out goes the carefully developed British stance on Tibet:

Last month ... Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, asked China to give money to the International Monetary Fund, in return for which Beijing would expect an increase in its voting share.

Now there is speculation that a trade-off for this arrangement involved a major shift in the British position on Tibet ...

... an announcement on Oct. 29 by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, that after almost a century of recognizing Tibet as an autonomous entity, Britain had changed its mind. Miliband said that Britain had decided to recognize Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China. He even apologized that Britain had not done so earlier ...

Miliband described the British position as an anachronism and a colonial legacy ...

The British concession to China last month was buried within a public statement calling on Beijing to grant autonomy in Tibet, leading some to accuse the British government of hypocrisy ...

Britain's concession could be China's most significant achievement on Tibet since American support for Tibetan guerillas was ended before Nixon's visit to Beijing.

Out goes the British stance on torture:

The existence of an official interrogation policy emerged during cross-examination in the high court in London of an MI5 officer who had questioned one of the detainees, Binyam Mohamed, the British resident currently held in Guantánamo Bay ...

The Guardian has learned from other sources that the interrogation policy was directed at a high level within Whitehall and that it has been further developed since Mohamed's detention in Pakistan. Evidence of this might emerge from 42 undisclosed US documents seen by the high court and sent to the MPs and peers on the intelligence and security committee (ISC).

And in comes the duplicitous manipulation of the British courts, getting them to suppress evidence by pretending that a letter solicited from the US had actually been received as a surprise, a threat from out of the blue:

Miliband's position in the affair came under renewed attack yesterday after it emerged that his officials solicited a letter from the US state department to back up his claim that if the evidence was disclosed, Washington might stop sharing intelligence with Britain. The claim persuaded the high court judges to suppress what they called "powerful evidence" relating to Mohamed's ill-treatment.

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, today described the move as possibly "one of the most outrageous deceptions of parliament, the judiciary and the British people. There must be an immediate investigation, with all related correspondence made public."


March 2009: the police are now investigating allegations of UK collusion in torture, 'We did things differently in my day, Mr Miliband'.


* a facility which remains undiminished, 'Miliband in stand-up row with Sri Lanka defence minister over civilian deaths'.


May 2009: David Miliband's piccolo diplomacy


June 2009: Tortuous evasions on torture, Breaking the rules on torture


July 2009: Revealed – the secret torture evidence MI5 tried to suppress, David Davis MP accuses MI5 of 'outsourcing torture', Binyam Mohamed: police to investigate claims British agents colluded in torture

Copyright © Steve Bell 2009


August 2009: Miliband denies Megrahi release connected to UK commercial interests:
Such claims were "a slur both on myself and the government", Miliband told Radio 4's Today programme.

October 2009: David Miliband tipped as EU foreign minister
(Clearly the recession hasn't dented everybody's sense of humour)

November 2009: Binyam: Judges attack UK secrecy over public documents
Senior judges say the foreign secretary is stopping them releasing details of CIA interrogation techniques - even though the US has published them.

February 2010: Binyam Mohamed torture allegations must be disclosed, day judges
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, has lost his appeal court bid to prevent judges disclosing secret information relating to torture allegations in the case of Binyam Mohamed.

May 2010: Government cannot use secret evidence in Guantánamo torture case, court rules
The court of appeal has dismissed an attempt by MI5 and MI6 to suppress evidence of their alleged complicity in the torture and secret transfer of British residents to Guantánamo Bay.

September 2011: It was not bin Laden who defined this decade
... the West must rediscover the joys of multilateralism and shared sovereignty. That is tough when, in Europe, nobody wants to pay Greece’s bills. But multilateralism is a global insurance policy against abuse of power. The problem is not that the EU and other multilateral institutions are too strong; it is that they are too weak. Regional institutions in the Arab world, Africa, Latin America and East Asia are still in their infancy — and need to grow up fast. (See also here)

February 2012: Time to rethink, not reassure
Labour needs comradely and serious debate ...

February 2012: David Miliband: the sniping and self-pity of a truly feeble man
In short, by all means let this snivelling poltroon of a fallen princeling stuff his pockets to his heart’s content, while popping along to the House of Commons every once in a while to sob into his nosegay over a crashing sense of entitlement denied. But, Lord above, let him be guided by the example of the Duke of Windsor through his long years of exile, and do it quietly. From this David, a period of silence would be most welcome – and if it didn’t end until Doomsday, that would be far too soon.