Tuesday, 31 August 2010

When family and politics mix

One of the most interesting features of the current Labour leadership election is the fact that two of the candidates (the front runners no less) are brothers. At the start of the leadership election, David and Ed Miliband assured the media (and their mother) that 'brotherly love' was stronger than politics. However, in the last few days things have become somewhat more acrimonious.

In an interview with Eddie Mair on PM two weeks ago, Ed Miliband was asked if he had the courage to sack his brother. He refused to answer the question, saying he didn't want to answer hypothetical questions. When David was asked the same question two days later, he simply said 'yes'. Both the brothers have written newspaper articles and given speeches which have been interpreted as attacking their respective sibling.

Perhaps this behaviour is natural between the front runners in a close race. Normally however, after an election, the candidates are able to move on from the electoral battle. Even in the most hostile contests, at worst a friendship might come to an end, but this election might split a family.

Of course, there have been other political families. The Churchills in the UK, the Kennedys and the Bushs in the US, the Nehrus and Gandhis in India and the Bhuttos in Pakistan. The difference with the Milibands is they're not working together, they're fighting against each other - John, Robert and Edward Kennedy all ran for President of the United States, but not in the same year.

In the next few days Labour and Union members will be receiving ballot papers for the leadership election. The polls suggest that Mr. Miliband will be the winner, though which Mr. Miliband is still in doubt. Perhaps, after the election is over, the wounds will heal and the brothers, no matter which one (if any) is leader, will be able to move on. That's certainly what their mother will be hoping!

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