I well remember where I was and what I was doing the day that David Miliband confessed to giving succour to the Taliban in Afghanistan. I was in my garden mowing the lawn on a warm August afternoon and listening to that despised organ of religious fundamental terrorism, Radio 4.
Miliband Major was speaking on Great Lives and his chosen subject was Joe Slovo, a communist and one of the leaders of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress that was declared a terrorist organisation by the South African and US governments in the early 1960s.
Slovo had been a regular visitor to young David’s house being a pal of Miliband Senior, the two having a lot in common, both being Jewish émigrés of Marxist persuasion. I quite enjoyed the programme as I didn’t know much, if anything, about Slovo and the interesting life he led. (See his biography or listen to the programme on i-Player)
The accusation that Miliband was giving succour to the Taliban was extrapolated from his response to a loaded question from presenter Matthew Parris. Asked whether terrorism was ever justified, Miliband replied: ‘Yes, there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective, but it is never effective on its own.’
The Daily Mail omitted the last bit of the quote, of course, and got ever so worked up about it, but as Miliband was Foreign Secretary at the time, you have to admit they had a point. What made me recall this incident was Miliband’s decision to enter the contest for the leadership of the Labour party and other words of his on the programme:
The importance for me is that the South African example proved something remarkable: the apartheid regime looked like a regime that would last forever, and it was blown down.