David Miliband made a not-so-subtle attack on Gordon Brown in the Commons on Tuesday, as he railed against the coalition’s plan to cut benefit payments.
The former Labour foreign secretary, who lost out on the leadership of his party to his younger brother in 2010, attacked the government’s “rancid” legislation that would see benefits rise below inflation at 1% – a real terms cut.
“This rancid Bill is not about fairness or affordability. It reeks of politics, the politics of dividing lines that the current government spent so much time denouncing when they were in Opposition in the dog days of the Brown Administration. It says a lot that within two years it has fallen into the same trap,” he told MPs.
He added: “We all know the style. Invent your own enemy. Spin your campaign to a newspaper editor short on facts — or high on prejudice. ‘Frame’ the debate.”
Miliband’s attack on the Bill was on the surface an assault on David Cameron and George Osborne, however the target was really, or at least equally, the former Labour prime minister.
Brown was often criticised for creating “dividing lines” as part of his electoral strategy while in office.
Miliband had strained relations with Brown while serving in his government, and is widely seen to have bottled his chance to seize Downing Street when the then prime minister was weak.
The now backbench MP made the intervention in the debate as rumours fly around Westminster that he is prepared to make a return to the Labour front bench under his brother’s leadership.