11 January 2015

Could David Miliband do a Boris (part 3)

Following posts last August and last month, even I am getting bored with this subject, so in brief there is an article in the February 2015 Vogue magazine, The Exile - Is David Miliband the most charismatic leader we never had? - a QTWAIN* candidate, if ever there was. Christa D'Souza accompanied DM on one day of “a three-day whirlwind trip” he made to Pakistan in his role as CEO and president of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Much of what she reports is either stock stuff:
Born in London in 1965 and brought up in Primrose Hill, David Wright Miliband is the elder son of the late Marxist academic Ralph Miliband …
…PPE, the wife, the kids, New York etc, and much else only worth reading if you are interested in the work of the IRC or in Pakistan. However D’Souza didn’t miss the opportunity to enquire about DM’s longer-term aims. Although his answers were in quotes, and therefore presumably verbatim, her sometimes obtuse questions were only implicit in the breathless accompanying text – like this:
David Miliband as the next prime minister? Is that something … that might be on the cards - if not at this election, then the next? He’d get my vote, I sally shamelessly... "Ha ha, well, that's very kind of you to say so," he says, and then deftly extricates himself from answering the question. "Look, it was great that you came out here, so much better than doing the interview in some office... “
… he laughs when, as we pull away from the sprawling Mughal residence, I mention the way Sarwar made a joke about shaking hands with the future British prime minister. So, come on then, he's still young, is he thinking of returning to politics? Both Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson have been quoted as saying they very much hope he is. "Ummm... I don’t know; is the answer. It was obviously a big move to come to the States. I had a very good run. Obviously I still care about the country, but I’ve come here to make a success of this job. Whenever anyone asks me when I decided I wanted to go into politics, I always say: what do vou mean, when did I decide? I still haven't decided! Evidently it's not all written down on a sheet of paper... It feels like I'm in the right place at the right time..."
The question I pose to him is, on a simply human level, doesn't he wince at reading all the dreadful press his brother is getting? Isn't it true, to varying degrees, that it's fine to be appalling about one's own family, but if an outsider weighs in on one's own flesh and blood, beware?     "I can't say anything, because anything I say plays into the whole narrative," he tells me wearily. “And I made an absolute commitment to myself not to play into the story, so I can’t even accept the premise of your question... "It's not good for him and it's not good for me for this to become a story," he says as he gestures for me to switch off the tape recorder, forgoing the chance to make a statement of wholehearted support for his brother that one might reasonably expect.
Nowhere in the article is there any indication as to when this encounter took place. However, according to the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) website:
On Monday, November 18, 2014, the LUMS Model United Nations Society (LUMUN) hosted a talk by President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), David Miliband. He has had a distinguished political career in the United Kingdom over the last 15 years. … This is Mr. Miliband's tenth visit to Pakistan and the fourth to Lahore.
The December post here was triggered by Miliband’s Lunch with the FT encounter which had appeared in the Financial Times on 13 December 2014, so whether that took place before or after the trip to Pakistan isn’t clear. Either way, perhaps at least for the first four months of 2015 David Miliband will decide to go into purdah – an expression remaining in modern British usage as a vestige from the old Indian Empire, appropriately enough.

D’Souza, like other journalists before her, couldn’t resist making unfavourable comparisons between the two brothers:
Looks aside, [DM’s] aura brims with steely, statesman-like charm, unlike his comparatively hapless-seeming brother …. [who] mutates into the twenty-first century's equivalent of Michael Foot …
Intentionally or not, amongst the gush about DM:
I sit next to an extremely beautiful editor from the national newspaper Dawn, who whispers admiringly, "I didn’t realise he was so tall! He's too good-looking not to return to parliament." Unlike his brother, David Miliband has the aura of a statesman, as opposed to that of a politician - and you can feel it right here in this room, the sway he holds over this impromptu gathering of influential, super switched-on elites.
there are some revealing vignettes:
The disquieting thing about David Miliband, aside from the darkening gaze and marionette-like rictus he pulls when someone talks while he's talking, or when the development jargon irritates him (“NFI? I mean, who's going to know what that means?" he all but snaps at an aide), is the fact that he appears such a young 49-year-old, with his plush, badger-streaked hair and football-player body.
Despite his generally easy manner, Miliband's patience obviously gets tested by a number of things. Red tape; extraneous noise while he is talking; time-wasting. At a meeting the previous day in Islamabad at the Pakistani Humanitarian Forum, to which the heads of several local NGOs had been invited, he became noticeably fidgety when the host invited each speaker around the table to introduce themselves. "Yes, we've done that already," he said with that icy grimace. "I know everybody's name, I think, and where they are from, I've read all my briefings …".
Well, we’ve all known people like that.

*QTWAIN Questions to Which the Answer is No

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