Belfast Telegraph

Keeping it in the family made Ed what he is now

By Mary Kenny

Leave aside politics for a moment and think of the family dynamics involved in the leadership of the Labour Party.

It may be a little soppy, but perhaps mothers — or parents in general — have been fascinated by the element of ‘sibling rivalry’ in the story of Ed and David Miliband.

All parents who have raised more than one child know that sibling rivalry is an element of family dynamics. The great psychological expert on sibling rivalry was the Viennese shrink, Alfred Adler. On family dynamics, Adler was ace. He even believed that your entire character is shaped by your place in the family.

The eldest child is, in Adler's thinking, a natural conservative, cleaving to the established order, because he (or she) looks back fondly to a ‘golden past’ when he (or she) was the one and only. The younger (and youngest) child, according to the Adlerian analysis, is more likely to be a rebel: he sees himself as overthrowing the elders to whom, initially, he has had to defer. He is more likely to be a risk-taker.

The Miliband brothers appear to conform to this model. The elder Miliband, David (45), is the Blairite, and thus considered more Right wing in Labour Party terms.

He would not, for example, back the trade unions in opposing the public sector cuts coming down the line. David is married, with two children, both adopted.

In accordance with the classic model of younger brother, Ed (40), is more Left wing, and won the leadership by obtaining the trade unions' backing.

Ed is not formally married, but living in an open partnership: he has one young son, Daniel, with another baby due in December.

This elder brother conservative, young brother rebellious, doesn't always follow a pattern, because human beings are individuals and not produced according to some factory template.

The Milibands' father Ralph — a noted Marxist academic — is dead, but their mother Marion is alive and well, at the age of 75.

There has been much speculation on which of her sons Mrs Miliband would have chosen to win, but wisely she kept completely schtum. Every parent knows one must never show favouritism.

However, Adler suggested mothers are most indulgent to the youngest child in the family. We don't know: both Miliband brothers have been academically high achievers, suggesting that both were pushed by their parents.

Added to the fact that Ralph and Marion had exceptionally hard lives as youngsters. Ralph, whose family was originally Polish, made his way on foot from Brussels to Ostend in 1940, and caught the last boat leaving that port before the German invasion.

Marion, whose family name was Kozak, had a truly terrifying childhood, fleeing the Nazis in her native Poland. She lost many family members at Treblinka, but she and her sister survived through luck and the kindness of strangers who hid them.

Mrs Miliband has never spoken about the family's story or the way she raised her sons: except to say they were both given a strong sense of justice, mindful of the painful political background.

How that sense of justice will translate into political action now is a matter of much speculation: critics are already fearful that Miliband Jnr’s sense of justice means soaking the entrepreneurs (though he denies it) and championing the trade unions to whom he owes such a debt.

Miliband Snr, some argue, would have tempered justice with a sense of responsibility towards the wealth creators: that's what eldest children are famed for — a steady sense of responsibility.

Ed has certainly shown open love for his big brother, but the rivalry was still there, and David openly alluded to it.

They wouldn't be siblings if there wasn't rivalry, but they wouldn't be brothers if there wasn't, also, family love.

Belfast Telegraph


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