David Miliband has given his most withering critique yet of Labour’s failures under his brother’s leadership, saying the party had “turned the page backwards” and needed to return to the winning policies pursued under Tony Blair.
In an interview on Tuesday night with US news channel CNN, Miliband – who now heads the International Rescue Committee in New York, after losing out to Ed Miliband in the 2010 leadership battle – confirmed again that he would not play a role in Labour’s current contest.
But after initially promising interviewer Christiane Amanpour a “statesmanlike demurral” to questions about Labour’s defeat in May under the leadership of his brother, Miliband went on to say that the party’s electoral collapse had come “for a very clear reason”.
“What I think is important for all the candidates [to replace Ed Miliband] is to reflect on the very clear lessons of two devastating electoral defeats for the Labour party in the last five years, which have come for a very clear reason.
“And the reason is that the public have concluded that instead of building on the strengths and remedying the weaknesses of the Blair years, the party has turned the page backwards rather than turning the page forwards.”
The answer to this, Miliband said, was for the party “to find again that combination of economic dynamism and social justice that defined the success of the Labour party” under Tony Blair.
Miliband’s comments follow more guarded statements made in the immediate aftermath of Labour’s election defeat in which he said he hoped in the near future to be “freer to contribute” to the debate about where the party went wrong.
In a separate interview with the Times today, Miliband appears to be exercising that freedom, saying: “We should liberate ourselves from the delusion that running away from three election victories is a route to success …
“It’s 50 years since Labour won a majority at a general election without Tony as leader. It’s important to have this in mind.”
Questioned on CNN about the forthcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, Miliband said Labour should argue that “even the talk of Britain leaving the European Union is dangerous for Britain, and the reality would be disastrous”.
He added: “Sitting in New York, it’s completely evident to me that no American government would ever take seriously a Britain that has withdrawn from the European Union.
“It’s almost like Britain would be resigning from the world.”
Labour would need to be at the forefront of the campaign to remain in the EU, despite not being in government, he said.
Contrary to the assertion this week by acting leader Harriet Harman that some Labour voters had been “relieved” that the party was not in government, Miliband told CNN he thought there was a “profound sense of shock and disappointment in Labour ranks”.
And he implied that Labour under his brother’s stewardship had not been trusted on the economy, saying the party “needs to catch up with the way Britain has changed, the way politics has changed, and the kind of agenda that needs to be set in an age of economic insecurity”.
But Miliband stopped short of criticising his brother directly, telling the Times: “Of course it’s doubly painful for me because it’s my brother. I don’t want him to be hurt and I don’t want him to be vilified.”
Three of the contenders to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader have now reached the 35 nominations from MPs required to secure a place on the ballot. Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have met the target; Jeremy Corbyn has 11 backers, and Mary Creagh has five. Nominations close on 15 June.