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A freak storm strikes the Fabian Society library, scattering gobbledegook in its wake - it's David Miliband's Wonknado

By Mark Wallace
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SharknadoLast night, one of the greatest so-bad-it's-good films ever made hit British television screens. In Sharknado, a freak tornado tears through the sea off Los Angeles, scattering sharks across the city.

It's even worse than it sounds, but it's ok because the special effects are awful, there are several washed-up former stars and the love scene involves characters cutting their way out of a Great White. With a chainsaw.

Never one to pass up a commercial opportunity, David Miliband has produced a sequel impressively quickly, though I'm not sure it will prove as big a hit.

In his latest New Statesman article, it seems a freak tornado has torn through the library of the Fabian Society, scattering technical gobbledegook across Westminster. In short, it's a Wonknado.

The first five paragraphs contain a bombardment of what appear to be randomly selected quotes from various political thinkers, which are so disjointed that he even felt the need to translate one of them:

"what Al Gore calls “robo-sourcing” (that is, technological change)"

Altogether, it's enough to force a rethink about the common assumption that in Ed Miliband Labour have elected the geeky, poorly communicating brother.

Once you've dodged the hail of incoming technical terms and the general tone of "high worthiness", there might - just might - be some interesting stuff lurking behind the storm front.

His lessons for the future of the left include some insights. On fiscal policy, he writes:

"while fiscal stimulus may be a short-term remedy for low demand, fiscal prudence is a medium-term necessity."

It's a pity he didn't realise during his years in government that you can't spend beyond your means all the time, but it's a start - and another voice adding pressure against the two Eds' refusal to acknowledge that high spending and high borrowing is a problem

Then there's the question of consumer and voter power:

“Predistribution” does not fit on an electoral pledge card, but the idea is right and so is the challenge of developing new ways, either through individual rights or collective organisation, to tilt the balance of power towards ordinary people.

That won't make for comfortable reading for his brother, who first brought the clunky term 'predistribution' to our attention. But in plain English, David Miliband is arguing for more direct democracy in the market place and in our politics. Again, it's a shame he didn't realise this when he was in a government which repeatedly rejected the right of the people to have an EU referendum, but it's a step in the right direction.

He has a similar departure on public sector reform:

"...the state needs to do more with less, and that requires big reform. Reform is one of those words that can lose meaning through excessive and loose use. But for social democrats the specifics of decentralisation of power, transfer of budgets from managers to people, integration of back offices, and challenge from private- and voluntary-sector providers should all be geared towards the goal of a public sphere that can serve its founding purpose"

Again, when he was in government the last thing he did was decentralise power, put the people in control and acknowledge the need to do more with less. Instead, he was part of an administration that love quangos, technocrats and unprecedented borrowing rates. But to endorse this position now, even couched with jabs at Tory motivations, is a sizeable change in direction.

All of which raises two questions:

1. Does he really mean it? We've heard commitments to localism, people power and public sector reform before from senior Labourites, but the party has never really proven able or willing to shake off its gut instinct for big-state, big-spending, centralised control.

2. If he does mean it, will his brother listen - or will David have to come to Labour's rescue, chainsaw and shotgun in hand?

All that's certain is that the man putting forward these ideas is off - off the green benches, off the British airwaves and off to America. It is his brother who is left to weather the storm, whether he follows his advice or not.