A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ed Miliband

I have some very good friends involved in David Miliband's campaign. Generally they are my allies on the policy issues and internal elections facing Labour and I am very grateful that many of them have helped me get nominated for the NEC.

Whilst the campaign is being fought without the acrimony that has characterised some Labour leadership elections, the likely very tight result between the two Milibands is causing a bit of what I can only describe as naughtiness in the David camp in terms of how they are trying to portray Ed (and indeed Ed Balls).

There seems to be a concerted effort to paint Ed (and Ed) as wild-eyed leftists. This was evident in recent commentary by my friend Paul Richards (http://www.labourlist.org/paul-richards-leadership-half-way-state-race) and by Dan Hodges (http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/07/22/were-finally-starting-to-see-who-should-lead-the-labour-party-observes-dan-hodges/) and in press articles by Phil Collins and Anne McElvoy.

The charge sheet seems to be that if you have secured the support of major trade unions, and you are trying to develop a policy agenda that moves us forward from where we have been, if you don't believe in a high-Blairite marketisation agenda, and you want to take the fight to the Tories on cuts QED you are the spawn of Trotsky. We've come to a bizarre state of affairs when being supported by pragmatic trade unionists like the GMB (basically the industrial wing of the North East Labour Right) and Unison Labour Link (the hardest-line bashers of the SWP and Respect in the business) is something to be attacked for in a Labour leadership election. On policy, I think if Blair was running now he'd be more likely to do what Ed M is doing - look for ways to modernise our approach in light of the objectively changed circumstances of economic crisis and climate change, than to think that the market-orientated approach which made sense in 1994-1997 still represented modernisation now. Real revisionists don't stick to a stale formula - they constantly try to be radical and move with the times.

These attempts to paint Ed M into a left corner aren't in the interests of the Party because if Ed wins the Tories will use these caricatures as ammo to attack him and the whole party as having moved to the left, which it won't have done. They don't even make sense in terms of David's campaign strategy - there's something heroically kamikaze about trying to get votes from Labour and trade union members by hailing how ideologically pure a New Labourite your man is and accusing his opponents of pandering to ... er ... oh yes the party they are trying to get elected leader of.

The same mistake was made by Hilary Clinton's supporters against Obama in the primaries. They misread and misrepresented his radicalism and profile as the change candidate as being on the left on a traditional left-right spectrum. They were wrong about Obama and the Davidistas are wrong about Ed Miliband.

Frankly I find the whole proposition that Ed Miliband is the left candidate laughable and ludicrous based on my own contact with him. I decided to back him after hearing him speak at the Labour First fringe meeting at Birmingham Spring Conference 2008 and the Labour First AGM at Brandhall Labour Club this year. His willingness to engage with a group of people who are the organisational descendants of 1980s Solidarity Group of MPs (in some cases the same people) doesn't really put him on the left of the Labour spectrum. We put out leaflets backing NATO and the nuclear deterrent. He seems quite comfortable addressing our gatherings and got a fantastic reception. Ed Balls - equally maligned during this campaign as pandering to the left (for what, opposing cuts to BSF?) - has also addressed Labour First's AGM and was nominated by MPs who have been attacked as "on the right" for decades.

Ed Miliband's parliamentary supporters aren't dismissible as leftie rebels. They include some of the brightest young modernisers in the party like Luciana Berger and Rachel Reeves.

Ed M has also been attacked because he might get elected on second preference transfers. But this is not a first-past-the-post election. The whole point of Labour's electoral system is that you are supposed to get second preference transfers from other candidates. It is irrelevant who wins on first preferences because it is not a FPTP election. If you can't get transfers you need to ask yourselves why and whether you should be running.

If Ed Miliband wins it will be because he has proved he can transcend the ridiculous Blair/Brown divisions of recent years and unite the party. Because he is acceptable to almost everyone and does not alienate people we need to motivate, enthuse and unite in the campaign to return us to government. Because he is as relaxed about going to talk with a Progress or Labour First audience as a Compass one. Because he can get people as diverse as me and Mark Seddon working together on his campaign.

I've been involved at the sharp end in the CLPs of every major struggle to drag the Labour Party onto the centre ground and defeat both the hard and soft left since I joined in 1988. I would not throw away 22 years of fighting to make Labour electable on a whim to back a candidate who would reverse that progress. I have spoken at GC after GC about the need to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent. I would not back a candidate who put our strategic defence at risk.

Disparaging comparisons are made with Neil Kinnock - not least because Neil is backing Ed. I can't buy into some Year Zero 1994 analysis of Labour history that plays down Neil's role in modernising the party. Tony Blair only achieved what he did because of the heroism of Neil Kinnock in taking on Militant and ditching unilateralism. If he had inherited 260 or 270 seats like Blair did, or like either Miliband will, he would have become PM. It is an honour not an insult to compare Ed Miliband to Kinnock.

I am proud to be on the moderate wing of the Labour Party and I am proud to support Ed Miliband as a candidate who understands that for Labour to be electable we need to re-modernise our policies for a new era, rebuild the 1997 coalition of core vote and swing vote in the marginals and retake the South from the Tories.

I respect colleagues whose judgement is that David can better do those things, but I would urge them to campaign for David on his merits, not to target Ed with silly smears that misrepresent his politics.

All of us on the centre and right of the party should be celebrating that we have four good candidates running from broadly our tradition and that there is no prospect of the hard left's candidate, Diane, winning. Trying to artificially drive wedges between the four when they will have to work together under whoever wins is not a clever way forward and it needs to stop now.

Over the years I've been called a Kinnockite, a Blairite and a Brownite. I've been relaxed about all those labels and I intend to be equally relaxed after 25 September if accused of being a Milibandite - whether that's under Miliband D or Miliband E.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you give the names of the people who are supposedly smearing Ed's campaign? It sort of looks like it is you who is doing the smearing if you cannot back up those claims without actual names.

4:24 pm, July 23, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Pretty much agree with all of that, Luke. I'm to the left of you but essentially I'm not on the left of the party either.

What I am impressed with is the breadth of Ed's support. No other candidate has support running from a couple of Campaign Group members to the most impeccably New Labour. But all of us recognise the need to work together against this dreadful government - and what I do find interesting is that some on the left are being far too forgiving to this government, I think because they have been caught up in the anti-state drift of the past few years.

Personally, whilst there does need to be reform, I still believe in an active, providing state, and I think after a few years of this lot so will the electorate.

4:25 pm, July 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If Ed Miliband wins it will be because he has proved he can transcend the ridiculous Blair/Brown divisions of recent years and unite the party. Because he is acceptable to almost everyone and does not alienate people we need to motivate, enthuse and unite in the campaign to return us to government. Because he is as relaxed about going to talk with a Progress or Labour First audience as a Compass one."

Could not have put it better

5:43 pm, July 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good article. I am perfectly relaxed about either brother winning - but these whingeing columnists are really pissing me off. At best they are (as you say) preserved in aspic circa 1994-97 (I think this is true of Richards particularly) at worst (yes I mean you, Phil fucking Collins) they should seriously consider joining the Tories, as they seem to think "Dave" is so wonderful :-(

6:54 pm, July 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What should really worry you folks is that Ed M even has support in the Tory party. Most feared there is David and first choice would by Diane. 'Know your enemy' is worth remembering.

7:15 pm, July 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tories want us to pick either Abbott or Balls. If they "prefer" Ed over David, it is largely because of the mischief-making that is the subject of this thread!

The media "bubble" may have convinced themselves there are huge differences between the brothers and that Ed is some mad left winger - but were he to become leader (and I still think David is favourite, BTW) he would soon show this up to be the ludicrous biovating it is. Of that I am pretty confident ;-)

8:42 pm, July 23, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am proud to be on the moderate wing of the Labour Party..."

Why is it 'moderate' to support replacement of Trident WMD?

People are free to support such a policy if they wish but it is extremely disingenuous to describe a willingness to kill millions of innocent people as a 'moderate' position.

10:53 am, July 24, 2010

Anonymous Mary Wimbury said...

Couldn't agree more Luke.

I was Ed's agent in the GE and think people totally underestimate him if they think he's doing anything other than saying things he believes and trying to win the contest and go on to become PM. He's not afraid to make difficult decisions, or defend those made by cabinet colleagues, but he's also thinking strategically about what the country will look like at the time of the next election and how we win it. He's prepared to take on ideas and policies he thinks will work, both in policy and electoral terms, no matter where in the party they come from. And his support from across the party really does mean he can unite us as leader and go on to win the election.

1:47 pm, July 24, 2010

Anonymous Alun said...

Excellent post; better than most of the rubbish that's been written about the contest.

3:22 pm, July 24, 2010

Blogger John Wiseman said...

Ed is the man and now has unite NPC backing

4:09 pm, July 24, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remarkably silly piece in Harry's Place about this today.....

Surprised you haven't made a comment under it, Luke :-)

12:26 am, July 26, 2010

Blogger Edward Carlsson Browne said...

I'm on the left of the party, and I agree with pretty much every word of this.

Ed Miliband is a good candidate because he realises things have changed and the old model won't necessarily work. In some places that may mean we move left, in some places we may move right a little. In others the status quo is fine.

But the argument of David Miliband's (genuine but not terribly helpful) supporters is just to stay in the same place full stop. As anybody who's ever played Quake knows, that's a recipe for a whole world of hurt.

I'll argue for the Labour Party to move left until the cows come home, but I'm not aiming to win all those battles. What I'm aiming for is a Labour Party leader who's best qualified to win us a large majority and has an agenda that will improve the lives of the inhabitants of this country and force the Tories to move left to have a hope of winning.

If we stay still, we don't force the Tories to move at all and given that we just lost an election on our present agenda, we need to be prepared to alter it in major ways to keep appealing to the electorate.

2:38 pm, July 27, 2010

Blogger Dan Hodges said...

Sorry to come late to this.

Where and when did I describe Ed M as a 'leftist'?

10:49 am, July 29, 2010

Blogger Dan Hodges said...

Sorry to come late to this.

Precisely where and when did I describe Ed M as a 'leftist'?

10:50 am, July 29, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting - a guy who goes and shouts at Sally Morgan demanding that the elected leader of the labour party and the elected prime minister vacate office so that his boss (who was most unqualified for the job) gets the coveted job - and make a hash of it is going to close divisions.

Either he did because he believed Brown would be a better PM - that shows bad judgement or he did because that was the easiest way to the cabinet and putting his and his boss's ambition before party and country.

This holier than thou image that EDmiliband's supporters are portraying is just simply crap.

Also, in the hustings, I like the way Ed Balls and Ed Miliband went at each other about what they thought of the Iraq war - so he us a bloody hypocrite

10:02 pm, August 06, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest the 'moderate' wing of the Labour party is that which can see where adherence to the market (at least when it suits the powerful interests) has taken the country to the precipice. Labour laid the groundwork and the Conservatives/Libs are hell bent on taking us over the edge.

10:31 pm, August 24, 2010


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