Miliband, David

Miliband, David
▪ 2008

born July 15, 1965, London, Eng.

 When Gordon Brown (Brown, Gordon ) became the U.K.'s prime minister in June 2007, he surprised many by appointing 41-year-old David Miliband as foreign secretary—one of the youngest men ever to hold this post. Miliband's rise had been extremely rapid; he had been an MP for only six years and a cabinet minister for just two. By general consent, however, his sharp intelligence, easy manner, and moral conduct combined to make him highly suited for the post.

      Miliband was the son of Jewish (and Marxist) refugees who had fled from Adolf Hitler—his father was Belgian and his mother Polish. He grew up in a home devoted to fierce political debate. Like his younger brother, Edward (another member of Brown's cabinet in 2007), Miliband attended a local comprehensive school in North London. He secured a first-class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and a master's degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

      In London Miliband worked (1989–94) as a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank with close links to the Labour Party's “modernizers,” who wanted to distance the party from its traditional socialist doctrines. In 1994 he edited a collection of essays, Reinventing the Left. When Tony Blair was elected party leader that same year, he appointed Miliband as his head of policy, and when Blair became prime minister three years later, Miliband was named to head the Policy Unit, where he earned a reputation for being clever but not arrogant.

      Wishing to pursue a political career, Miliband in 2001 was elected MP from the safe Labour constituency of South Shields, in northeastern England. Within 12 months Blair appointed him minister of state for schools—a post just below cabinet rank. In 2004 Miliband became a minister for the Cabinet Office, and following the 2005 general election, he was made a full member of the cabinet, as minister for communities and local government. A year later he acquired one of Whitehall's largest departments when he became secretary of state for environment, food, and rural affairs. In this post his responsibilities included developing British policy on climate change.

      Less than 14 months later, however, Brown took over as prime minister and promoted him to the foreign office. (It was considered a mark of his political sensitivity and maturity that Miliband was trusted by both Blair and Brown.) As foreign secretary, Miliband steered British foreign policy away from unquestioning support for the United States, especially over the war in Iraq. He also sought to convince all sides that despite his Jewish background he would be evenhanded in his dealings with the continuing disputes concerning Israel and Palestine.

Peter Kellner

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Universalium. 2010.

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