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, October 01, 2010

That was the week that was

A suitably 1960s title as I think one of the analogies from Labour history - definitely not an exact one - for Ed Miliband is Harold Wilson, a figure who used media perceptions that he was from the party's left to skillfully bind the party together and win four General Elections on a platform of modernising Britain. Like Wilson Ed will find that a lot of the potential talent for his frontbench team sits in the ranks of the MPs who voted for the candidates he defeated. He needs to promote key Blairites (and Brownites who made the wrong call on the leadership) and integrate them into his team just as Wilson did key Gaitskellites. The inexactitude of the analogy is that Ed is objectively from the centre or soft right of the Party whereas Wilson had at least at points in his career been on the Party's left.

I had a good conference with my own NEC win and Ed's win, but it was at times an uncomfortable one as I was conscious very many of the 30,825 NEC votes I got were from people who had backed David for Leader, and that many of my closest friends in politics were mourning the defeat of their preferred candidate.

I was taken aback by the degree of passion David's candidature seemed to have generated - perhaps because I hadn't been in it I hadn't realised how much people had invested in it emotionally.

I think that Ed's speech has started the process of people who backed David getting their heads round the fact that this was not some apocalyptic Benn vs. Healey style battle for the soul of the party, but a literally fraternal contest between two brothers with different but not necessarily mutually exclusive agendas.

I am relieved that we will not have to face a confrontation between the new Leader and the Party and Unions, which I think would have happened if David had won and pursued the radical public sector reform agenda some of the thinkers around him seemed a bit fixated on.

It was actually a big surprise to me that David won in the members' section of the electoral college, but in an odd way somewhat reassuring that members behaved the way they did. I think that many of his supporters came to the wrong conclusion but for the right reasons, backing him because the media barrage saying that he was the person best placed to win a General Election was so strong. I voted for Ed for exactly the same reason - because I think he will turn-out to be the most voter-friendly candidate we had on offer. Ed now needs to harness that tremendous sense that we must get back into power - so different to the outbreak of self-indulgent ultra-leftism seen in 1931, 1951, 1970 or 1979 - and use it to do just that.

The win for Ed in the union section is also significant - a massive victory in the section that is most like the wider electorate and particularly in the GMB and Unite, the two unions with the most private sector workers in the key swing C1 and C2 social classes. To win that big in Unite you need to have won the votes of the people who build Trident submarines in Barrow, the aerospace workers in the Lancashire marginals, the automotive industry workers in the West Midlands, Luton and Swindon, white collar technical and financial workers, skilled electricians and plumbers from the old EETPU. These are exactly the kind of voters we will need to win marginal seats in the next General Election.

I was shocked by some of the hostility to trade unionism I heard after the result. We need to ensure everyone joining the Party gets a thorough education in what trade unionism is for and what is has contributed to the Labour Party and the rights of working people over the years - making us a pragmatic party grounded in tackling the bread-and-butter concerns of ordinary voters, rather than an exercise in theory. Hopefully one consequence of Ed's win will be a growing back together of the Party and our union affiliates, with a recognition that trade unions are an immense source of strength and stability for Labour, not an embarrassing elderly relative sitting in the metaphorical corner muttering. But this will also require the unions to think carefully about the electoral implications of their industrial response to the Coalition cuts, and to deepen their input into the party as affiliates. That relationship needs to go beyond the current very welcome financial support and organisational support at elections and top-level input at Annual Conference, the NEC and NPF. It needs many more TU members to be encouraged to become individual Labour members and activists, and many more TU branches to be affiliated and sending delegates to their CLPs.

The tragedy for David is that he probably would have narrowly won were it not for the sense of entitlement and threat exuding from some of the people on his campaign, and the two heavy-handed and totally counterproductive interventions by Peter Mandelson. It's also a tragedy for Mandelson who has presumably excluded himself from the new Leader's counsel when he still has a lot to offer.

For the people who backed David (I'm not using the term right of the Party because people from the right were at the heart of the campaigns of both Eds, Andy and David), the key thing to do is to accept the result and engage with Ed. The speeches I saw at the Progress Rally seemed to indicate this was going to happen. The more they do engage then the more that their policy perspectives will get woven into the agenda for Labour's next term in government, because this is a Leader who listens to ideas and can be convinced by intellectually coherent argument.

He (Ed) won't always be saying things I agree with. Truth to be told, whilst I was delighted by the rest of the speech, like David I didn't clap when he spoke about Iraq. I still think it was the right thing to do. But Ed said what he believed - and he has to lead with conviction. It's also probably the right way to go electorally. Just as some of us loyally supported Tony Blair despite having serious doubts about his position on public service reform, you don't have to agree 100% with what Ed says to give him 110% loyalty.

Any taking to the hills for guerrilla sniping by disaffected supporters of the losing candidates is likely to see them finished in politics by a leader who has rapidly consolidated his grip on the party despite the narrow results, and would represent a repeat of the errors of the TB-GB internecine fighting. My guess is that what will actually happen will be a period of unity in the Party that we haven't enjoyed for many, many years. I believe that unity will help propel Ed into 10 Downing Street.

18 Comments:

Blogger Matthew Cain said...

I was surprised that you chose to support the anti-war candidate, although I concur that the 'Red Ed' tag is daft.

He did, though, run a gutless campaign. Not that it wasn't effective but I've a hunch that anyone half competent could have won on the basis of criticising Iraq and being friendly to Unite. Ed didn't tell the party anything it didn't want to hear.

The real challenge for Ed - and the party - is that it is still obsessed with Blair/Brown (the vote and the reactions of Woodley and Kinnock neatly encapsulated that). and totally unrealistic on the deficit (regardless of the merits of the policy, the public disagree with us).

Like the Tories in 1997 and 2001 we are convinced that we face a monstrous opponent and defeating them is inevitable - whilst the public quite likes them and is prepared to wait and see.

I wasn't at conference, so maybe I missed some vital insight that didn't come through the media narrative.

But I do trust your instincts so take some heart from the fact that you're optimistic.

5:00 pm, October 01, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conspired with unions to stitched his brother in the back and reversed on all the big positions.

And this is someone you're supporting without qualification?

We're not fools.

Worse that the Red Ed tag is the nerdy personality. You're stuck with someone whose never going to appeal to the marzipans.

Welcome to the wilderness for the next five years de minimis.

5:22 pm, October 01, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Matt

It never occured to me that he was the "anti-war" candidate or that views on a war 7 years ago would be a relevant criteria for picking a leader. I voted for him because he seemed the most charismatic, electable and dynamic and to have best grasped the need for a full reappraisal in light of only getting 29% of the vote - plus as a Unite member I rather want a leader friendly to Unite. I agreed with his policy stance on the Living Wage, the deficit and public service reform.

I agree with you that winning vs the Coalition isn't inevitable.

It's hardly gutless for Ed to run against his own brother who appeared the frontrunner and would have guaranteed him a high rank shadow cabinet position.

I prefer to think of Ed's campaign as a gutsy, heroic and against all odds insurgency.

Ed was the only person who could end the Blair/Brown split and move us on from it.

6:18 pm, October 01, 2010

 
Anonymous Compass and David Miliband supporter said...

"I believe that unity will help propel Ed into 10 Downing Street".

"Ed was the only person who could end the Blair/Brown split and move us on from it".

Just bollocks, Luke. I'm really sorry. The party has made a momumental mistake. We will now be lucky to get into power in 2020. It is now more realistic it will be 2024. I weep for all those people in our deprived areas who need a Labour government and will no get one. Ed M is an even nastier Brownite than Ed Balls was. It says something that, after hating Ed Balls' guts for most of my life, I would rather he had won than Ed Miliband, a man who could not even be bothered to put his name on his first child's birth certificate. Personal life or not there things show character (or not). Matthew is right. Ed M is gutless and will be a disaster at the polls.

10:44 pm, October 01, 2010

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Yet despite all the crap about labours shift to the left would damage it's chances....the guardian publishes a poll that shows labour 2 points ahead of the Tories.

Labour obviously hasn't been listening to the people.

10:35 am, October 02, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I voted for you so congratulations. I also hope you are right about the future. However, if you want to criticise a misplaced and unhelpful "sense of entitlement" better to look at the TUs than at DM's campaign I would have thought.The sense that the party has now been "returned" to where it should always have been has already made its unattractive appearance on a number of blogs-including some that hate your guts. It makes me despair for the thoughtful and inclusive alliance of interests which we are going to need if we stand a hope in hell's chance of defeating the Tories any time soon.

11:32 am, October 02, 2010

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

I generally agree with your analysis. What I think has to be a good sign is that Ed's campaign was supported by a good range of opinion within the party from right to left and certainly few of the most partisan in the Brown or Blair divide opted for him which means we are in a better place to move forward. As someone from the social democratic tradition who felt that NL often moved too far from those values I am encouraged. I think that there may well be issues where both of us won't be in total agreement but outr role is to support Ed and work for our return to government. Some of the sectarian Blair-DM supporters need to get a grip!

12:11 pm, October 02, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the last post Luke - I voted for you in the NEC elections and admire your blog and political views, but I think you are very wrong about Ed Miliband.

He is percieved as 'not normal' in the way that Hague and IDS were, has proven himself to be an utter opportunist and either himself or his team of advisers around him seem to believe that we just need to win back some disaffected Lib Dems to form a majority government. People didnt vote Tory because they wanted a more left wing Labour Party, however much I wish this not to be the case. I am very pessimistic about us winning back back in 2015 - I think it will take two'heaves' rather than, under David Miliband, probably just one. Labour has blown an incredible opportunity, and it will be our people that suffer.

1:16 pm, October 02, 2010

 
Blogger johnpaul said...

Thedifference between 64' adn now is A)the toires were discredited over Profumo, Philby and had ran out of steam with an out of date leader,B)in 59' they said 'you've never had it so good, before an ecenomic slump, Remeber If Gatiskill ahd lived he would'nt have let militant, Scargill infultrate us, and woudl have took on the unions,It reconned that Had he lived He would have won the election with a bigger majority than Wilson did, Wilson also had no real opponent, with Heath not rady to rule in 66' and went to the country in 74 saying who runs Britain, Wilsons legacy was that he put labour out of power for a generation.

3:02 pm, October 02, 2010

 
Blogger Matthew Cain said...

thanks for coming back, Luke.

This election was fought on the basis of the past, rather than the future. Iraq was relevant because candidates chose to make it relevant (and Ed was part of that).

I don't have a strong opinion on the particulars of Ed's views on the deficit (as opposed to Darling, for example). What bothers me is that as a party, we are losing the argument. The public accepts the need for cuts and is prepared to give the coalition time before it comes to judgement. We look out of touch on this.

I like your caracicature of ed's campaign but it simply isn't true. Yes, it was courageous to run against his brother (although most people find the whole thing just odd). But a candidate with the support of Unite and GMB is not an insurgent. And one that tells the party what it wants to hear is not a particularly brave campaigner. When Harriet Harman did just this during the deputy campaign you were (rightly) very critical.

As for whether having a candidate which is friendly to Unite is a good thing - is that the same Unite where one leader uses members money to stay in the Waldorf and where the other leader thinks 13 years of Labour government were dark days for the country?

5:44 pm, October 02, 2010

 
Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

Well, after moving left in 1970 we went on to win the next election, so it looks like it was the right idea...

8:59 pm, October 02, 2010

 
Blogger Newmania said...

You voted for the scarlet harlot because you are trying to shake off the rightist tag you aquired when that seemed the right way to go for advancement in the Labour Party. You are utterly transparent Luke honestly its funny as f---
I have watched the process with delighted glee over the last few months. I daresay you hoped the puice puppet would lose anyway but personal ambition was more important than anything else for you ...and for Ed
You now have a leader only a tiny minority of Labour members gave first preference votes to and whose campaign was bought by the Unions. Unite £250,000 , GMB £28,000 keeerching and they provided about 60% of the backing.

The Unions are not like the country because most of the country is not in a Union duh... 15% of the private sector as opposed to about 60% of the Public Sector. The fact that Unite is mostly private Sector has not prevented them calling for waves of (presumably responsible )strikes over Public Sector Job cuts
I might point out that only 7.5% of the balloted membership voted at all

BET I CAN GUESS WHICH 7.5%


It is frankly sad and pathetic that you ,as somone who presumably knows the South outside London chose to ignore the realities David Milliband was talking about. I know you are aware of them

What the hell is going to happen to a rufescent pubescent lead Party there and without the South you cannot win.
Not left eh ... then why are Seamus Milne ,Neil ( The Cretin) Kinnock and Roy (The Dinosaur ) Hattersley crowing . Why is mummy`s ickle renta gob Hundal pontificating and why is David Ostler telling the right to suck it up.
Jesus Luke have you no shame , not one iota of self respect? I could not do it and if you did not get the coded direction from the Ruby Booby then you are ..well you are lying so it matters not how dim such a deluded child would have to be.

SHAME

SHAME

SHAME


You have to know New Labour cannot win with a man who combines Blair's honesty, Brown's open generosity and Kinnocks brains.'As a Unite member' ... oh do please f--ck off


( I mean this kindly ...:) )

1:07 am, October 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matthew, please give it a rest with this idea that either the coalition or their economic plans are amazingly popular. They are not - and to suggest that they are in as strong a position as Labour were in 1997 or 2001 is quite frankly laughable......

No doubt you will accuse me of being complacent and expecting victory to drop into our laps. Don't bother - I'm not and I don't. The complacent ones, rather, are those who seem to think that just copying in every little detail what worked in 1997 will do the trick again (for another example, see Tim Allan's risible efforts in today's Observer - pitiful stuff)

"Red Ed" has made a good start. Let's all get behind him ;-)

1:51 pm, October 03, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Matt

Unite isn't Derek and Tony. It's over a million ordinary working people and an organisation that gives them support and protection when they are in dispute with their employers.

Unite's decision on who to nominate and campaign for for Leader was taken by an executive made up of elected lay members after consulting a national political committee democratically elected at regional political conferences by every Unite member who sits on a local Labour GC.

9:14 pm, October 03, 2010

 
Blogger Newmania said...

"Red Ed" has made a good start. Let's all get behind him ;-)

Red Ed has made a rather worse start than his old boss Brown but then if almost none of the Constituency Parties pick you as a first choice and you do not have the support of the majority of your MP`s then its probably hard to look very scary
I do not care if Unite appoint a Parliamentary representative to look after their members.I only suggest everyone else remembers not to vote for him.
This group unlike any other are negotiating for policies that will directly reward a small section of the work force . It is poltical corruption in plain sight and rendrees Old Labour unelectable

9:56 pm, October 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Newmania, delusional as ever I see!

You are a right wing nutter (and I mean that affectionately, well sort of ;-))

12:26 am, October 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"a misplaced and unhelpful "sense of entitlement" better to look at the TUs"
11:32 AM, October 02, 2010

Turnout of trade unionists entitled to vote was pretty poor.

8:56 pm, October 04, 2010

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Iraq is relevant in the sense that it is an issue upon which many deserted Labour for the LibDems, but it was hardly a key focus of the campaign (which I helped with as well). Obviously Ed had to state his view which has always been his view. But he wasn't the anti-war candidate any more than Diane Abbott was. However, it won't do him any harm when angry former LibDems consider their votes

Matthew: we cannot always follow 'what the public wants'. Sometimes we have to lead the way and bring people along with us - in the way that Thatcher did. Or are we always to shift constantly to the Right? Surely there has to be a time when we say 'enough' or what is the point in having a Labour party at all. It is far too early to say whet the long term attitude will be towards these particular cuts and I see no reason why we shouldn't set our own priorities.

Ed very clearly DIDN'T say what the Blairite Right wanted to hear and offered a more typically social democratic outlook - though one based very much in the moderate Labour tradition. And he started off way behind - no-one could have said he was the favourite until the voting drew to a close.

This is the Labour party, Matthew. Labour. Doesn't that suggest to you that the voice of organised labour might be part of that party?

9:37 pm, October 04, 2010

 

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