Why I have decided to support David Miliband for Leader

As you will be aware, I did make a nomination for Leader of the Party. That was for Diane Abbott, because like other colleagues in the Parliamentary Party I wanted to see the widest possible debate and choice for Leader, not that I had made up my mind before the contest started who I thought was best for the Party.

The Leadership campaign has now been going for nearly three months. The five candidates have published their own manifestos, attended scores of hustings and other events around the country, and taken part in countless appearances on radio and television. If the contest has not dominated the headlines in the way that some leadership contests have in past (for all three parties), that is a tribute to the civilised way in which all five candidates have conducted themselves.

I have during this period been reflecting on who in my opinion is best placed to lead the party through the next nearly five years of this Conservative/LibDem government (and it will in my view be five years), and then lead us to victory at the 2015 General Election.

All the candidates have strengths. In my view, however, there is one outstanding candidate with the qualities necessary both to be Leader of the Opposition, and then Prime Minister. And don’t forget, the post of Opposition Leader is probably the most difficult and exposed of any in British politics. The Conservatives got through three Opposition Leaders before they elected one who could achieve even half a victory. Only three Labour leaders (Attlee, Wilson, Blair) in our post-war period have won elections.

In my judgement it is David Miliband who without doubt should be our next Leader. He will get my vote. Here’s why:

  1. He has the strength and the depth to stand up to David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions week after week, and he can stand up for the people who will be most badly hit in our communities by the policies of this Con/LibDem government.
  2. He an excellent communicator. Those of us who attended Blackburn CLP’s Sunday organisation meeting during the election had the privilege of seeing and hearing how well he came across. Indeed the Blackburn CLP has since endorsed David’s candidacy.
  3. He knows that we won’t get anywhere if we stand on our heads and start undermining what we achieved in government. Our record was overall a terrific one. Look at what we did. We can see it in Blackburn – with exam results at GCSE more than twice as good as they were in 1997; with a brand new hospital and dramatic improvements in health care; with the best record of any post-war government on crime and anti-social behaviour – balanced by the greatest advances in civil liberties of any post-war government, through the Human Rights Act, Freedom of Information Act, Equality Act, legislation to outlaw discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender or sexuality; on overseas aid, and in many areas of foreign policy. And we can now see that the measures taken once the world financial crisis was upon us have worked to keep unemployment from rising anywhere near as much as predicted.
  4. At the same time as standing up for our achievements, David has not been afraid to learn from the mistakes which, inevitably, all governments do make – not least in the style of leadership that did not give sufficient prominence to the Party, or to Parliament.
  5. However, in my view David recognises more acutely than any the fact that elections are about change, the future. We have to defend what we did, of course. Without that, we will damage our own credibility. But we have to set out above all a clear vision and set of policies for the future. David has spoken passionately about the need to invest in industry to provide the sustainable jobs we need, in both the new green technologies, and in more traditional manufacturing; about strengthening our engineering base, of how we should close the gap in educational achievement.
  6. Yes David is very bright, and went to Oxford. But his secondary education was at a large inner London comprehensive, similar to the one my children attended.
  7. David is tough. He won’t pick fights – in my experience he always works very hard for a consensus. But sometimes as a Leader you have to tell folk – including within the Party – what they don’t want to hear. David won’t flinch from doing this if he thinks it is necessary.

Every party member and eligible member of an affiliated trade union will be able to vote in this election.

Ballots begin to drop on 1 September and new members can still join the Party and vote right up to the 8 September (so tell any Labour supporters you know who aren’t members to join by this date).

I hope very much you will carefully consider voting for David.

Best wishes


Author: Jack Straw

Jack Straw was elected as the MP for Blackburn in 1979 and is currently the Secretary of State for Justice.

7 thoughts on “Why I have decided to support David Miliband for Leader”

  1. Excellently written article in support of David. You put his case across magnificently. I do hope people take your advice and consider voting for him. He is the right man to lead the party back to the other side of the dispatch box, where Labour belongs.

  2. “balanced by the greatest advances in civil liberties of any post-war government”

    Now come on, Jack. Really!?!?!!?

    I am probably a bigger David Miliband fan than you are and overall this article is excellent. However, to find anything positive about Labour’s record on civil liberties in the last few years is pretty difficult as even you should admit.

    I am glad you are mentioning civil liberties though, and that the issue is being given prominence in the Leadership debate (thank you, Diane Abbott) because the encroachment by the state on ordinary British people’s day-to-day lives is an extremely big issue for some of us – particularly Black or Minority Ethnic UK citizens.

    The state is supposed to support and assist people not monitor and harrass them for no good reason. Labour did too much of promoting the latter in its third term at the expense of the former.

    David Miliband, or whoever wins the Labour leadership, must fundamentally overhaul the Labour leadership’s recent attitude to civil liberties and restore complete respect for this country’s once proud rule of law.

  3. This endorsement is beyond parody.

    The only thing I can assume is that Mr.Straw considers “advances” in Civil Liberties to mean policy moving in a different direction to that favoured by the rest of the country.

    None of the following could be considered an advance:

    -Control Orders.
    -The indefinite retention of DNA profiles.
    -The Identity Card and National Identity Register.
    – 90/42 day detention.
    – The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
    – Empowering the police to conduct random stop and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

    The toxic combination of failures here was one of the most potent weapons in the Tory arsenal. To now pretend they didn’t happen is absolutely ridiculous.

  4. How can you undermine nothing, eduucation is the prime example 13 years of devaluing exams so as to be able to boast of a record of improving results.

    A straw man argument by a straw man

  5. I’ve long been struck by how those who criticise Labour’s record on civil liberties pocket the unquestioned advances to concentrate solely on alleged encroachments on individual freedom. The Human Rights Act, Freedom of Information, the best legislation in Europe on race, religious, gender equality, and for gay and lesbian people did not drop out of the sky. It came from Labour – often in the face of opposition from other parties; and only from Labour.

    Because of 9/11 we did have to take measures which we would not otherwise have contemplated to help keep the country safe. We did not get all of these right. 90 days, and 42 days were disproportionate – and did not go ahead. But it’s idle to suggest that in the face of a significant number of terrorist plots – some executed with terrible effect, like 7/7 – we could have sat on our hands. Had we done so, and there had been more outrages, the attacks on us would have come from left as well as right. But the Human Rights Act has ensured that the actions of the law enforcement agencies have had to be tempered – and the courts have rightly been quick to assert individual’s rights under the Act where they have felt that the state has acted disproportionately. That would not have happened without the Act.

    As for DNA retention, I am unrepentant. It has helped convict a number of guilty rapists and murderers who would otherwise be at liberty.

    On the environment for black and Asian people, it was Labour (me as it happened) which set up the Lawrence Inquiry, and ensured that it was fully implemented. There is further to go, but most black and Asian people I meet tell me that the climate is now transformed for the better – and that’s because of Labour. The Tories never introduced a single piece of legislation on race (or religious) equality. Their sole “contribution” to discrimination for gay and lesbian people was the notorious section 28 – which made it much worse.

    Jack Straw

  6. How can you undermine nothing, eduucation is the prime example 13 years of devaluing exams so as to be able to boast of a record of improving results. A straw man argument by a straw man

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