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The Globe and Mail

Ed Miliband, Harper's chief of staff provide a moment of clarity

British Labour Leader Ed Miliband addresses delegates at the party's conference in Manchester on Sept. 29, 2010.

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Every so often in the course of democracy's political seasons, however and wherever defined, events conspire to provide clarity. That clarity is always fleeting, sometimes idiosyncratic and soon blurred by the exigencies of expedience and pragmatism. But in that moment we understand clearly the differences between left and right, conservative and progressive, libertarian and socialist.

Last week Stephen Harper appointed Nigel Wright, a long-time executive at Onex Corp. (Canada's most successful practitioners of rentier capitalism) as chief of staff. At roughly the same time Ed Miliband ascended to lead Britain's Labour Party. Both guys are in their 40s and each adhere to consistent principles and values that should suit them well to their new positions.

In an editorial praising the Prime Minister's selection, The Globe neatly summed up Wright's natural qualifications for the job:

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"No Canadian government should be dominated by the country's financial milieux, but the sometimes inward-turned Conservative government could benefit from better contacts with a different centre of power. With its Reform Party heritage, it has strong populist credentials and a feeling for public opinion outside the three largest Canadian cities; a dose of metropolitan elitism may be a wholesome addition."

Moreover, The Globe's Steven Chase caught exactly just who's water Wright is carrying when he reported Friday that, as far as Onex is concerned, the PMO's new domo is strictly a loaner. "Nigel will start work in Ottawa at the end of October and will return to Onex in 18 to 24 months to resume his leadership of the Aerospace and Defence and Energy verticals." While that must be relief to Onex's serfs in the energy verticals sector (whatever that is) for the rest of us it's a further indication that government (with apologies to Lincoln) "of the S&P 500, by the S&P 500 for the S&P 500 shall not perish from the Earth".

Ed Miliband on the other hand is a career labourite and son of the eminent neo-Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband. In his maiden speech as leader, Miliband (dubbed by Britain's tory press "red Ed') set himself against Britain's rentier class in calling for a reasoned response to the shaky economic climate:

"When you reduce your economic policy simply to deficit reduction alone you leave Britain without a plan for growth. It's not responsible, it's irresponsible and we should say so. No plan for growth means no credible plan for deficit reduction. And nor should we reduce the deficit without learning the basic lessons of fairness. We must protect those on middle and low incomes. They did nothing to cause the crisis but are suffering the consequences. I say the people who caused the crisis and can afford to do more should do more: with a higher bank levy allowing us to do more to protect the services and entitlements on which families depend."

There you have it; a moment of clarity. It'll be interesting to see in five years time which approach to economic life more effectively curried favour with voters in both countries.

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