Ed Miliband, the Jewish leader of Britain’s center-left Labour Party, is locked in a tight race with current Prime Minister David Cameron to become the country’s next leader. The latest polls project Labour and Cameron’s Conservative Party to win the same number of seats in Parliament, but Miliband could become Prime Minister even if his party does not gain the majority of seats.
Here are 5 things to know before Thursday’s election about one of the world’s most prominent Jewish politicians.
He would be Britain’s first Jewish prime minister — but not the first British Prime Minister of Jewish descent
Miliband has said that he wants to be Britain’s first Jewish Prime Minister, but that claim is a complicated one to make. Benjamin Disraeli, who was Prime Minister in 1868 and then again from 1874 to 1880, was born to Sephardic parents who converted to Anglicanism to improve their chances of social advancement. Either way, Miliband can claim to be the first Jewish leader of the Labour Party, since Disraeli was Conservative.
But Milliband doesn’t have the Jewish vote nailed down
A poll conducted by London’s Jewish Chronicle last month found that 69 percent of Jewish voters plan to vote for Cameron’s Conservative Party, while only 22 percent plan to vote Labour. Possible reasons? Miliband criticized Israel’s actions in last summer’s Gaza war and, according to the Spectator, kept silent on the rise of anti-Semitism at home for too long.
He vied for party leadership against his brother
In 2010, Miliband had to compete against his brother David to become head of the Labour Party. The sibling rivalry, which started when David was foreign minister and Ed was energy minister under Prime Minister Gordon Brown, caused rifts in their family and their party. More than two years after Ed won the leadership position, David ended the feud in 2013 by quitting politics and moving to New York to become the President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, an NGO that provides humanitarian aid. From 2007 to 2010, the brothers were the first siblings in Parliament at the same time since Edward and Oliver Stanley in 1938.
His father was a prominent Marxist and his wife was a child actress
Miliband was born to Ralph Miliband, a Jewish Marxist academic who fled from Belgium to England during World War II, and Marion Kozak, a human rights campaigner and member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who survived the Holocaust by being protected by Poles. Miliband’s wife, Justine Thornton, who is now an environmental lawyer, acted as a child in the British TV shows Dramarama (1983-1989) and Hardwicke House (1987).
Ed Milliband went from being seen as a geek to a trending sensation on Twitter
In the past year or so, Miliband’s image in the British press has changed significantly. Less than two weeks ago, he was trending on Twitter among teenage girls and young women.
“I told my wife the other night, this is what’s happening: Milifandom,” Miliband said on British TV recently. “And she looked at me as if to say, you know, have you lost your head.”