Left Watch

« Will Charles Kennedy and any other Lib Dems defect to Labour? | Main | Labour leadership favourite, David Miliband sets out four distinctive policies »

Ed Miliband hopes that Clegg-bashing might give him the edge over his brother

By Tim Montgomerie

4c19510c388f627c27e2fbcaebba1589 It appears to be 'Get Clegg Day' in the grid of Ed Miliband's leadership campaign.

With more evidence yesterday that brother David has the edge in the leadership race, the man who wrote the manifesto for Gordon Brown's 2010 campaign has blasted the Liberal Democrat leader in an open letter to LibDem members in The Guardian:

"[The Liberal Democrats] are a party of proud traditions: of Keynes, Lloyd George and Beveridge. But it is increasingly clear that these traditions are being abandoned by Clegg as he goes along with damaging cuts in public spending undermining economic growth, tax rises hitting the poorest hardest, and a clear threat to the universal welfare state. Our society is at risk of being reshaped in ways that will devastate the proud legacy of liberalism. We see a free market philosophy being applied to our schools, wasteful top-down reorganisation of our NHS, and the undermining of our green credentials with cuts to investment. At some point you have to conclude that this is not a mistake here or there, but part of a pattern. The pattern is of a leadership that has sold out and betrayed your traditions, including that of your recent leadership: Steel, Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell."

Ed Miliband argues that his newly-discovered support for a graduate tax, opposition to ID cards and his previously secret conclusion that the Iraq war was a "profound mistake" make him the ideal person to attract even more LibDem supporters away from the Coalition (YouGov again had Clegg's party at 12% overnight).

In The Telegraph Mary Riddell identifies Ed's Clegg-bashing and David Miliband's reluctance to do the same* as the most interesting faultline in the Labour leadership race:

"The Lib Dem question could be a game-changer. For the first time, Ed's attacking instincts and David's gloves-on restraint offer a simple choice both to friends and to the enemies who have caricatured them as Tweedledum and Tweedledumber."

The danger of this Clegg bashing is that, as in Aesop's fable, the huffing and puffing against Nick Clegg may actually push him closer to Cameron. The building of a sunnier alternative within the Labour fold for Liberal Democrats is probably more likely to destabilise the Coalition.

* I'm not sure it's as simple as that. David Miliband has, as Mary Riddell notes, called Clegg "the dumb waiter" and "dead parrot".