Ed Miliband: another new dawn?

I was blowing off steam the other day on Twitter about how I disliked the Channel Four trail for the recent More4 Miliband of Brothers drama.

Actually I just didn’t like how they’d used Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, a soapy, over-obvious bit of music deployment that always grates with me, especially if I like the original song. Whatever!

Anyway, with the Miliband political soap opera reaching something of a crescendo today, it’s a good moment to pause and reflect on what this means for human rights.

First, yesterday’s Ed Miliband speech. I watched former Blair speech writer Phil Collins (no, not that one!) criticising the speech yesterday on Channel Four News. Too many “clap lines” that didn’t challenge the audience, he reckoned. Hmm, maybe. But on the plus side, as Kate Allen observed in Manchester yesterday, it was encouraging for people who care about human rights to hear Miliband Jnr say this:

“But we must always remember that British liberties were hard fought and hard won over hundreds of years. We should always take the greatest care in protecting them. And too often we seemed casual about them.”

If this means that Ed Miliband’s Labour party is going to advocate scrapping deeply unfair control orders, abandon the misbegotten idea of deporting at-risk people on the basis of “diplomatic assurances” over their safety, and support a rigorous and wide-ranging inquiry into allegations of UK complicity in “war on terror” torture – then, well, I’ll clap that.

But, will David Miliband? At the risk of buying into the whole Miliband soap opera farrago, I wonder if Ed Miliband is in any way tempted to tone down support for the Gibson torture inquiry because of the fact that his older brother is highly likely to be questioned by it? 

I sincerely hope not. As the Guardian’s indefatigable Ian Cobain shows with his article on correspondence going into Downing Street in early 2002, it’s becoming more and more clear that people from the Prime Minister down knew that people from the UK were being illegally held and reportedly mistreated by the US at a very early stage. At the very least, this was played down in public at the time. When, for instance, Tony Blair apparently read the 18 January 2002 FCO letter about how UK detainees were going to be “interviewed” at Guantánamo, did he not think that this was all wrong – people being snatched, held in secret, allegedly abused and then “interviewed” at a remote military camp in the Caribbean?

The challenge for the Gibson inquiry is to probe into all this without fear or favour. Tony Blair, Jack Straw, David Miliband – they will all need to be questioned about what they knew and when. Ed’s challenge is to support this rummaging through the new Labour wardrobe, regardless of whether his own brother is discomfited by it.

So, let’s hope that Ed Miliband’s wider role as a champion of human rights began in earnest yesterday in Manchester. Or, as a particularly moving Joy Division song once put it, is this yet another new dawn set to fade?


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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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