Miliband brothers plan to contest UK Labor Party leadership

Siblings are sons of Jewish immigrants.

May 12, 2010 08:35
4 minute read.
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

david miliband 311. (photo credit: AP)


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LONDON – The Miliband brothers are set to contest the Labor leadership following British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s announcement on Monday that he will step down as leader by September.

Foreign Minister David Miliband and his younger brother, Climate Secretary Ed, will both run for party leader, the first contest in 16 years, along with Schools Minister Ed Balls, Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Deputy Leader Harriet Harman.

The Milibands’ mother is Polish-born Marion Kozak, who is a signatory of the Jews for Justice for Palestinians organization, and their late father was the Belgian-born Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband.

The Milibands lost 80 family members during the Holocaust, many in Auschwitz.

“I am a child of Jewish immigrants and that is a very important part of my identity,” David said in a 2006 Jewish Chronicle article.

In a CNN interview in 2009, he said he grew up in a secular setting and described himself as an atheist with a “huge respect” for people of faith.

Educated at Oxford University and MIT, David, 44, first came into prominence when he was made former prime minister Tony Blair’s head of policy in 1994. After rising rapidly through the ranks, he was made foreign minister in 2007.

During the Second Lebanon War, he reportedly told then-prime minister Tony Blair that he needed to speak out against the war.

During Operation Cast Lead he called for Israeli airstrikes to stop because they “fuel radicalism,” but also condemned the Hamas attacks on Israel.

Following the Gaza conflict, David announced in parliament that Britain would be reviewing existing arms export licenses. As a result of the review, in which the government looked at 182 licenses, the Foreign Office declared that Israel had contravened their criteria in a small number of cases during the conflict. Only five were canceled, said to be equipment and parts for the Sa’ar gunship.

Last December, David was rebuked by Israel after announcing that Britain should resume contacts with Hizbullah in an attempt to persuade the terrorist group to renounce its campaign of violence against Israel.

In an interview with Beirut newspaper the Daily Star, he said he believed “carefully considered contact with Hizbullah’s politicians, including its MPs, will best advance our objective of the group rejecting violence to play a constructive role in Lebanese politics.”

David played a prominent role in the Dubai passport affair earlier this year. In a statement in Parliament he announced the decision to expel an Israeli diplomat following the scandal and issued a public warning against travel to Israel, citing identity theft concerns.

In March, he told the Times that Israel “obviously doesn’t agree” with his repeated calls for a settlement freeze but stated his belief that settlements were not the root cause of terrorism.

“It’s foolish to think that if you resolved the Palestinian issue, al-Qaeda would disappear,” he said. “Equally, the corrosive effect of the absence of a Palestinian state is very real.”

He has also worked towards changing the universal jurisdiction law, used by activists to arrest Israeli dignitaries on “war crime” charges when they visit the UK.

Following the decision by Kadima leader Tzipi Livni to cancel a visit to the UK last December after she was threatened by such action, David Miliband expressed his “shock” at the arrest warrant, saying it was “completely unacceptable,” and vowed to work immediately to ensure that a similar incident would not recur.

“The procedure by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor is an unusual feature of the system in England and Wales. The government is looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again,” he said at the time.

Educated at Oxford and LSE, Ed Miliband, 40, was appointed a special advisor to Prime Minister Gordon Brown after Labor’s election victory in 1997. Rising steadily through the ranks, he was made secretary of state in the newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2008.

The younger Miliband is described as a better public speaker and more fluent in television appearances than his older brother, and is also politically to his left.

During a visit to Poland last year, David visited Warsaw’s Jewish cemetery, where members of his family are buried, and thanked the country for saving his mother’s life during the Holocaust.

“My mother was born here, her life was saved by those who risked theirs by sheltering her from Nazi oppression,” he said.

David is the favorite to replace Brown as party leader, with the process taking a number of months.

Candidates need a nomination of 12.5 percent – 33 MPs – of the parliamentary party to mount a bid for party leader. Then Labor MPs, MEPs and affiliated organizations and activists, including trade unions, cast a vote.

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