As the news that British Chancellor Gordon Brown would become the next leader of the UK Labour Party filtered through London, I caught up with Secretary of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs David Miliband at his Defra office in Westminster.
A young politician who has shone in his role as Secretary for Environment, David Miliband has been touted by many as the future of the Labour Party; many believe that, if the Conservative resurgence continues, Miliband could find himself an outsider for the leadership of the party in years-to-come.
Miliband is however a big supporter of the Prime Minister-to-be, “He has the right blend of youth and experience – Gordon Brown is definitely the right man to take this party and the nation forward”.
Both Tony Blair himself and his wife Cherie, have spoken publicly in the past about the suitability of the 42-year-old as a leader but Miliband is firm in his support for the current Chancellor; “I just follow my guts in politics; I think politics is as much following your guts as being calculated – more so a lot of the time – Gordon Brown is the way forward for the labour party”.
So, what does Miliband think should be the main concerns for the new labour regime? As Member of Parliament for South Shields, David Miliband is a keen supporter of raising the awareness of climate change and carbon emissions – two themes that go hand-in-hand; “Promoting the awareness of climate change is something I have come to realise is so important,” he said.
“It is a long-term problem that requires short-term action”, as Secretary for Environment Mr. Miliband appreciates the fact that climate change is something that will directly affect us and those who follow us and needs to be acted on immediately.
On a hectic day in Westminster, Miliband was forced to leave our interview early in order to vote on a series of pressing issues in the House of Commons, upon his return he was eager to emphasise his commitment to improving our environment; “It is easy for everyone to play their part – from student’s in their dormitories right through to pensioners in the home”.
Miliband has previously suggested the concept of every citizen being issued a ‘carbon credit card’ in the commons – an idea that has had mixed responses. Some feel it is another attempt at monitoring individuals and therefore encroaching on their civil liberty. “It is certainly something that needs to be addressed and it could be implemented, if people had said ten years ago that millions would carry a Tesco Club Card© then they would have been laughed at – the system would certainly be in the public interest” he commented.
Another factor that Miliband feels is fundamental in today’s current political climate is bridging the gap – which he regards to be growing and potentially dangerous – between the people of society and Members of Parliament. “In my opinion – politicians need to be accessible, we also need to be self critical so we can improve where we have fallen short and build on our successes.”
“My web-site and blog allows the public to be able contact me, I think this is a road all politicians should take.”
David Miliband held the position of Minister of State for Communities and Local Government for a year between 2005 and 2006, for this reason he was eager to emphasise the importance of local government; “Gone are the days that power is centralised in London, local government has become so much more important,”
At a transitional time for the Labour Party, David Miliband cuts a relaxed figure. At only 42 years of age and held in high esteem by his peers, the London-born Oxford graduate looks set for an influential and successful political career – but it could have been so different. Miliband’s original career goal was to become a London bus-conductor; “Yes, when I was a kind I was desperate to use the machines they used for the tickets – unfortunately those fancy Oyster© machines don’t have the same appeal”. London Transports loss must surely be Labours gain!