A surprise new leader for Britain’s Labour Party

A Miliband is going to be the head of the Labour Party. No surprise there. But the big surprise is that it’s not the one who was ahead in the campaign or the same one who led the first three rounds of the vote before his brother slipped ahead by a sliver of a margin, helped by the trades union vote.

This was like watching the final shock scene from the film “Carrie”: The union bosses representing the dead weight of the past rose up to give Ed Miliband their critical support. It’s a shame, because Labour stands a good chance of winning the next election as the budget-cutting policies of the new government bite. I’m talking about 25 percent cuts across the board in government departments that will see the number of jobless rise, and a hike in VAT to 20 percent. Last month, the government posted the biggest budget deficit for August since records began.

This has been a long, drawn-out and fascinating fratricidal struggle between the two Milibands — the better-known David, the former foreign secretary who is close to Tony Blair, and younger brother Ed, aged 40, a confidant of Gordon Brown, the defeated prime minister.

The Tories have already called the victory of “Red Ed” a “great leap backwards” for Labour.

Before the British election last May, the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, was quoted as saying he pitied whoever won. King said the austerity measures that would be necessary would be so severe that the victor would be out of power for a generation. In the event, the election consigned Brown to the history books but was hardly a vote of confidence in the Conservative leader David Cameron. The result has been the first coalition in Britain in 70 years, bringing the Liberal Democrats into government with the Conservatives.

So the big question now will be the same one that should have been asked all along: Is Ed Miliband prime ministerial material? The Labour Party members have given their answer. We’ll see in five years whether they were right, but if he is elected the next prime minister of Britain it may be not because of his personal talents but because of a tidal wave of protest from middle-class voters against the incumbents.