"We are one-third of the way through a revolution", David Miliband

The UK's Foreign Secretary tells Anthony Barnett that a revolution is underway and tells Sky that there will be no compromise on the Falklands
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
24 February 2010

Went to hear David Miliband speak at at Demos yesterday. He got lavish praise from James at the Statesman for his leaderly attack on Cameron, and a positive appraisal from Sunder at Fabians, who also praised his blend of 'progressive fusion' - which Sunder laid out for us in OK in 2008. Sunder banged the drum too for:

David Miliband's repeated advocacy of a reset referendum, including fixed election dates, could provide a foundational moment for a full constitutional settlement.

There was little sense of a potential leader setting out a case or being foundational. It was friendly and polite. No one asked about covering up our complicty in torture. There were classic Miliband phrases that catch the vapours of our time:

we will not restore trust in politics unless we bring the public into the decision making tent at local as well as national level


We should start with the assumption that the individual should have power, but never forget that government needs to have enough power to stop the individual being overpowered.

As knockabout with the Tories it wasn't bad. But I questioned the premise of this kind of exercise, which assumes we are facing a 'normal' election in a two party system - whereas the issue of the day is that voters despise both parties, see the system as a racket, and it is this that needs to be addressed. His call for a "Reset Referendum", a term I'd not heard before, suggested that the country faced a software problem whereas the public, rightly, are fed up with the hardware.

The Foreign Secretary was generous enough to reply "I'm with you 90 per cent of the way". He just did not accept the term "racket" was appropriate. Otherwise he agreed that there were huge problems with our Victorian institutions like parliament and announced that, "We are a third of the way through a revolution".

Which is interesting. What is the revolution? What are the other two-thirds going to be like? Will they take twenty-six more years of Labour government?

Questions for another day. There was a distinctly unrevolutionary answer to the reporter from Sky who asked about the Falklands, now the whole of Latin America objects to the UK exploring for oil in the South Atlantic. Miliband's reply (see video here) was classic, unimaginative Foreign Office intransigence. You could hear bones breaking. This is how he got sucked into covering up what happened to Binyam Mohamed.  Just imagine, he could have reached an agreement for joint exploration to public acclaim.

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