Labour Party,  UK Politics

Ed Miliband accused of rewriting history in Leadership debate

There were no decisive blows landed last night in the first televised Labour Leader’s debate on the BBC Two’s Newsnight lastnight, but Iraq proved a central bone of contention again with Ed Miliband pushing his anti-war stance and being rightly attacked for his efforts to rewrite history.

At one stage in last night’s debate Ed Miliband said that the Iraq war cost Labour votes. He’s wrong on this and I suspect he knows it. It wasn’t a decisive election issue and barely came up in the campaign.

When the question of Iraq first came up again Ed Miliband was so desperate to rush his answer out, the question barely off of Jeremy Paxman’s lips, that it was faintly embarrassing. There is an element of about Ed Miliband being too eager to please and you could see how this might start to come across as particularly irritating.

Ed Miliband reminded people again that he wasn’t an MP at the time of the invasion and reiterated his line about how the war caused “a catastrophic loss of trust”.

It was here he was accused of trying to rewrite history as he presented himself as the candidate who is free of all that baggage. It is clearly an issue between the two brothers, more so than any of the other candidates, and one that Ed is looking to exploit as a point of difference.

When David Miliband said people are trying to rewrite history when it comes to Iraq Ed countered by saying “I’m not trying to rewrite history” when that is precisely what he is trying to do. Andy Burnham, who was better last night than he has been previously, also hit back and said that Iraq was a “difficult decision” but people should not “go back and conveniently re-write the past”.

David Miliband said he did not back away from the original decision and spoke about how leadership is about taking tough decisions not ducking them and that his track record in the foreign office bore that out.

Ed Balls had a funny evening. He was the only leadership candidate to dump on Gordon Brown, calling him out of touch, whilst the others including Diane Abbott stood by the former prime minister, but then Balls also said that he didn’t want to be chancellor under Brown as well so make of that what you will.

As the candidates faced questions no one was a clear winner, but from the start, in the opening remarks, David Miliband was clearest in his vision when he said that the Labour Party had a very fundamental choice.

“If it believes simply changing the leader and not changing anything else is going to get us back into power or help us change the country we’re going to be making a grave mistake. We lost as we never represented because we no longer represented for too many people their aspirations for fairness, both those in the middle and the bottom, and we lost that critical ingredient of being the party of change and the reform in the future. We have to get to grips with those issues including the way we do politics. Just changing the leader is not enough.”