OPINION: Former Doncaster mayor Martin Winter is not just the man who made Ed Miliband an MP

Former mayor Martin Winter, seen here in 2007 training with the Doncaster Lakers.
Former mayor Martin Winter, seen here in 2007 training with the Doncaster Lakers.

It’s hardly a surprise to learn that former Doncaster mayor Martin Winter’s long-rumoured memoir, Fallout, paints a picture of a disastrously inept politician stumbling from crisis to crisis, accused of being unfit to lead, all the while losing the trust and respect of Labour Party colleagues and the electorate.

But I think it’s sad, in a way, that a man with such a colourful political career in his own right is reduced to billing himself as the self-styled “man who made Ed Miliband an MP”.

Of course a cynic may argue that the personal backing of Gordon Brown was a more pertinent factor in getting Mr Miliband selected for the Doncaster North seat – and that, having failed to find a buyer for his tome, getting his waspish anecdotes about the Labour leader serialised in the Mail on Sunday is simply a way for Mr Winter to recoup some of the cost of self-publishing his forthcoming vanity project.

A former rugby league player whose political rise promised a fresh start after years of ‘Donnygate’ corruption, Mr Winter was soon mired in controversies of his own, clinging to power through votes of no confidence, an 11,000 name petition against him and expulsion from the Labour Party before bowing out in 2009 over the children’s services scandal which left seven children dead.

Since then he has kept a low profile – but in recent weeks he has emerged, bearded, from his years in the wilderness to snipe at the man who would be Prime Minister.

Mr Miliband is out of touch with ordinary working-class voters, writes the former sculptor who, in his first term, awarded himself a 50 per cent pay rise and moved into a £25,000-a-year taxpayer-funded office above a bank.

Mr Winter showed his man of the people credentials in 2004 when the council sent out a letter to all parents warning not to take their children on holiday during term time. Like many hard-pressed working families Mr Winter chose to disregard the advice, reckoning jollies to the Glastonbury Festival and the Euro 2004 football tournament were worth making an exception for.

Another charge levelled against Mr Miliband in Fallout is that he expresses himself badly and finds it hard to make a connection with people. Perhaps he should consider going on a public speaking course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, as Mr Winter did in 2004 at the taxpayers’ expense.

Most gravely, Mr Winter claims Mr Miliband knew the global financial crash was coming in 2007 but didn’t act to warn anyone. You’d think he might sympathise: like the recession, the extent of failings in Doncaster Council’s children’s services department only became widely known in 2008, yet Mr Winter was first told the previous year, according to an internal council report.

David Jones is a former Free Press political reporter.