Why I think Ed Miliband is the right person to lead the Labour party


1:58 pm - August 23rd 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The speed and strength at which the Coalition has lurched to the right has united the Left and Labourites much quicker than I expected. It’s useful because some discipline is necessary to ensure the Coalition faces coherent opposition, but it opens the party up to blind spots.

The biggest danger is that Labourites are seduced by the call to quickly get back into power without honestly asking why they lost in the first place. The Conservatives made the same mistakes in 2001 and 2005 (with a ‘modern’ William Hague and traditionalists IDS, Howard). It took Ashcroft’s “smell the coffee” report for them to really, er, smell the coffee about their out-of-touch brand.

Keeping that in mind, there are several reasons why I think Ed Miliband is the right person to lead the Labour party to victory at the next election.

1) He wants to expand Labour’s natural base
In 2005 around 44% of voters identified with the Labour party; 5 years later this fell by over 10% to just under 34%. These aren’t just voter – these are people who identified with the party as their natural home. Only Ed is asking why they left and talking about how to bring them back into the fold. (Also see his Fabian essay)

The view that working class people have no choice but to vote Labour (and will stick by the party regardless) while they can pursue the centrists hasn’t actually worked in practice. Most of those votes lost were at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, not middle-class “aspirational” people.

Unless Labour hierarchy recognise this, those voters will stay at home like they did in 2010 and vote for no one, disgusted by Labour’s closeness to the banking and media elites.

2) The party needs healing
Ed Miliband recognises what went wrong, and isn’t afraid to say it. He has reached out to liberals by admitting the party got it wrong on civil liberties (42 days detention, ID cards, stop & search), was slow on the environment and too close to bankers and City elites.

He has said the Tony Blair was wrong to rush quickly into Iraq without examining the evidence properly. He has supported the Coalition when it has taken the right stances: on prisons and civil liberties. The point here isn’t just about reaching out to different voters, but honestly acknowledging that the party got it wrong. Sure – he was part of the last government but neither the manifesto nor most policy was his responsibility. The party needs healing from the infighting of the last decade, not another leader who will simply ignore the base.

3) A vision for the future
I also don’t buy the view that the candidates have not offered a sense of vision for the future. Read the speech where he sayd he wants to re-examine:

(a) Labour’s approach to creating and redistributing wealth;
(b) the limitation of markets and “how we protect what we truly value in life”;
(c) the relationship between the state and the citizen.

I don’t think these are insubstantial issues or questions. They need more fleshing out, and I’d expand more on them but I need to keep the article short. It goes without saying the change in direction and tone from previous years is there.

4) He is not a traditional lefty
It goes without saying that many traditional socialists don’t see in Ed the fiery rhetoric and radicalism they want from a Labour leader. Clearly, he’s not John McDonnell.

But the Labour party (and its base) is a broad-tent that can’t govern or win power if it just encompasses one faction – from the left or the right. So I’m not under any illusion that Ed will only run from the party left. I’ve said before – the left needs to embrace the idea of a permanent campaign, and not just hope that one of their people gets into power.

Whether or not Ed becomes Labour leader – the Left will have to campaign, mobilise and argue for their ideas and policies. That should be a permanent state of affairs. What attracts me to this campaign is that it can bring together the left and the right of the party, rather than just ignoring one side as a bad smell.

Other candidates.
I can’t back Diane Abbott because, like Andy Burnham, she has run an uninspiring campaign focusing mostly on her identity and the past. I want to support someone who talks about the future not the past. She has also failed completely in forcing others on her territory and making them move left. I can’t see how she would lead the party to victory in an election.

Ed Balls has been a breath of fresh air too, after a very lacklustre start. He has a solid pproach to the Coalition’s cuts and has done a brilliant job of hammering Michael Gove’s education plans. The party needs a fighter like him. But I also think it’s obvious most support has been lined up behind one of the Milibands – making him unlikly to be party leader. If Ed Miliband becomes leader I hope Ed Balls will be given a senior position in the shadow cabinet.

Lastly – I think David Miliband is a highly intelligent candidate. You can’t fault him on that. His mind is razor-sharp and the community organising is innovative (but will be short-lived according to most sources). But he does not represent a break from the past: a past that saw the second lowest share of the vote the party has ever achieved. He is not the uniter the party is yearning for.

Andy Burnham – the less said the better.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Well this is a surprise!

The only thing I’m surprised at is that a supporter of preferential voting uses the fact the Milibands are ahead as reason enough to vote for Ed Miliband ahead of Ed Balls. I thought preferential voting was supposed to negate the need to consider who’s most likely to win? ;p

Diane Abbot has not had the money to run a more effective campaign

Ed Balls is tainted by his past and his foul wife

Monkey Boy is the nothing but New Labour with another name. He represents money, power and privilege. His simian features could ressurect Spitting Image single handed, does the Labour Party want to be led by a man who is a gift to cartoonists?

Andy who?

Ed Miliband seems tolerable but we all know politicians will say anything at all to achieve office, don’t we Mr Clegg

Great article with bold statements – good to see.

“But the Labour party (and its base) is a broad-tent that can’t govern or win power if it just encompasses one faction.”

I don’t agree with this, but that is by the by. The Labour party, as far as I can tell, has at once shifted to the right ideologically as a set standard, has vindicated that move in the form of New Labour, and has either forced people to leave and form splinter groups, or those people had no stomach for fighting the good fight from inside (I suspect the latter by and large).

In this regard, Ed is creating his own faction, rather than appealing to the so-called “braod-tent” – that faction is expressed by an aversion to new labour politics of old (a strange notion I know) but without seeking to realign Labour with its roots.

I know this helps the politicking, but also adds fuel to the far left fire that the Labour party has always been a “party of capital” that is a party that seeks only to look after the so-called “capitalist class”.

But strategically Sunny I think you’re bang on about Ed’s campaign – i don’t know if you heard his podcast with nick cohen the other day but he refused to say whether he was left wing or not, and even refused to say whether he was to the left or to the right of his brother.

I’ve not been at all impressed by Ed Miliband’s juvenile strutting stuff about Charles Kennedy’s supposed defection. He really needs to get stuck into discussing substantive policies and issues if he wants the Labour Party with himself as leader to be taken seriously.

Ed Milliband is a lightweight. Prepare for many yrs in the wilderness if he wins.

To be fair, the social attitudes survey show that all political parties are losing out. The decline in the number of people who identify with Labour is no different to the decline in people who identify with the Tories or LDs. I reckon this came about because of the natural laziness of the British – when things are going fine they just allow it to continue seeing no reason to get involved. Ironically, the lurch to the right by this Conservative government (I wish people wouldn’t call it a coalition, the LibDems are merely human shields) is more likely to jolt people into doing something, and I reckon that the next social attitudes survey will show that the trend of the last decade has stopped.

I agree with you on Balls. I would like to see him on health (and Burnham sent sulking to the backbenches). Lansley is an uncompromising bully. The NHS needs someone who is a match. Burnham was pathetic during the election and at one point he got so upset that he would not sit in the same studio as Lansley, that is not a good attitude.

It ain’t my party so I’ll keep it brief but I cannot understand how you can view David as a break from the past when you view Ed as not being so.

Keir thought you were wise after joining the party; apparently not.

It’s ludicrous to say that the Tories elected Howard as they wanted to quickly get back into power. And as for Hague: he had no chance. Very few people in the world would have put up a challenge against us with Blair in the place he was in then.

And Ed recognises we were “slow” on the environment does he? That’s rich. Which Miliband made the Climate Change Bill? Which Miliband went to Copenhagen full of promises but came back with nothing? So who’s more at fault if we have been slow on the environment?

Interesting that these sources tell you the community organising training will be “short-lived”. Surely there will be more chance of it being short lived if we don’t elect the candidate who actually backed the whole thing?

The leader of the Labour Party has to be more than an attack dog. Ed Balls carries too much baggage and doesn’t have a great deal of political credibility left to establish himself as Labour leader IMO.

In case anyone here forgets this headline in the FT on 28 June 2006 – a year before the financial crisis started – others won’t: “Fears over surge in high risk mortgages”
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e8f9d3b2-060e-11db-9dde-0000779e2340.html

Nearly two years further on, this was the headline when the crisis was already well underway: “Lenders withdraw no-deposit mortgages” (8 April 2008)
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dd76f4f2-04d6-11dd-a2f0-000077b07658.html

Recent news about the outcome of the National Curriculum tests was hardly impressive:

“The National Curriculum test results also revealed that in spite of an improvement in English and maths, more than a third of pupils still left primary school without a proper grasp of the basics in reading, writing and maths.”
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ba881948-9f3f-11df-8732-00144feabdc0.html

And this from the regional press in Yorkshire, which is where Balls’ constituency was located until the election in May this year:

“YORKSHIRE has the country’s fewest 11-year-old pupils who grasp the basics in reading and writing, according to national curriculum test results that were undermined by a teachers’ boycott.”
http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/Sats-test-scores-reveal-regions.6455344.jp

Richard Blogger,

I reckon this came about because of the natural laziness of the British – when things are going fine they just allow it to continue seeing no reason to get involved.

Well, as someone said (they put it better), perhaps all the ‘big’ problems are generally perceived to be solved and we’re now just ‘quibbling’ about the details.

But, to be fair, lots of people don’t see the point in getting involved in political parties and mainstream politics (as opposed to single issue campaigns) because they feel they have little or no influence.

I think anyone of them will do, because Labours going to struggle like hell to get back in anyway, it will be fun watching the New Labour party antics of knifing each other as they try to climb the Ladder to the top, never know Brown might actually win an election, to the leadership in a few more years.

keeps them in opposition fine by me.

It ain’t my party so I’ll keep it brief but I cannot understand how you can view David as a break from the past when you view Ed as not being so.

One recognises the party made mistake, the other wants to campaign on the last manifesto…

Which Miliband went to Copenhagen full of promises but came back with nothing? So who’s more at fault if we have been slow on the environment?

I don’t think Ed has been non-committed on the environment – but firstly the party wasn’t interested (they went for 3rd Runway for chrissake!) and secondly Copenhagen was screwed for lots of reasons…

Diane Abbot has not had the money to run a more effective campaign

This has nothing to do with money. I’m talking about performance on media, about vision and about her narrative. None of those appeal.

she can’t expect to win the future by talking about how she never compromised in the past. Politics is *always* about some form of compromise. The idea that she won’t compromise in the future either is just plain ludicrous.

@10: “But, to be fair, lots of people don’t see the point in getting involved in political parties and mainstream politics (as opposed to single issue campaigns) because they feel they have little or no influence.”

Which is undoutedly so with a FPTP electoral system when the majority of seats at general elections don’t change hands:
http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/news.php?ex=0&nid=461

General elections are won or lost in some 200 critical marginal constituencies – only swing votes in those constituencies matter.

Bob @13, indeed.

Here is an informative PDF on the decline in party membership.

Oh Sunny, you went for a Miliband! I had my money on Ed Balls.

I always think politics isn’t about backing the right person, it’s more like choosing your favourite smell of fart: you don’t go for the best, you go for the one that least offends your sense of common decency.

Even so, maybe if the majority of Labour members had been like you a some years ago, a few more Iraqis would still be alive.

#15 The majority of Labour Party members were. In fact, if the same proportion of the general public were against the war from the beginning as Labour Party members, Britain would probably never have taken part in the Iraq war.

Good call.

16.

Should have clarified – I meant the MPs, not all members.

But I disagree with your latter point: they would have gone to war whatever. Governments don’t care about people – that may sound extreme but it’s a point history has proven over and over again. The Labour Party is no different, as they have spent the last 12 years demonstrating. They’ve been more merciful than the Tories, but they’ve still maintained a system that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few while millions starve.

#18 Re: MPs, fair enough. (Although I’m pretty sure it was the largest rebellion ever and certainly without Conservative support the Commons wouldn’t have backed the war.)

You may be right on your second point, although I remember some poll figure around the time of invasion that suggested 80% of Labour members were against the war, as opposed to just under 50% of the general population. It would’ve been very difficult for any government to go to war knowing that 80% of the population were against it. I suspect they would’ve had to resort to tacit and covert support only with no troops provided, like Wilson did with Vietnam.

19. I went to the big march on Valentine’s day before the war. I seem to remember that public approval fell to 22% then and climbed once the war had started (because of that awful ‘our boys’ rhetoric the tabloids start churning out).

I might be wrong. It was a long time ago.

Yes they would have gone to war even if public opinion was 100% opposed. Apparently it takes 6 months to mobilise an army. Most British troops receive a call out notice 28 days before they leave: http://www.army.mod.uk/structure/15271.aspx

So the wheels would have to be set in motion way before that.

A government only refrains from doing things that directly damage it. Everyone knows Iraq was a farce, but as far as the powers that be go, they got exactly what they wanted and are now free to lead extravagant and long lives. People who call Iraq a disaster aren’t looking at it from the point of view of those who led us into it. For them it was a phenomenal success.

tim f,

#18 Re: MPs, fair enough. (Although I’m pretty sure it was the largest rebellion ever and certainly without Conservative support the Commons wouldn’t have backed the war.)

It wasn’t the largest rebellion ever.

#21 Purely out of curiosity, what was?

tim f,

Unfortunately I have no idea, but IIRC a vote on Members Allowances saw a larger rebellion!

Well that wasn’t a surprise, Sunny. But – what is E’Mil going to do about devolving the power base to local communities? What is he going to do to stop illiberal policies ever coming to the fore again? Why hasn’t he shown real anger at what the world financial markets have done to world economies? Why hasn’t he shown real anger because so many are out of work, and are about to be out of work? Why isn’t he mandating a living wage rather than bribing business to stump up a living wage(ish)?

Why isn’t he stating that those who caused the crash will pay for it? Why is he still languishing in New Labour clothes? Why has he not come out and simply apologised to the weak, sick and poor because of the idiotic illiberal policies started by New Labour which have been carried forward by this conservative government?

That is a start – and certainly not broaching what us left-wingers want, because, as it seems, we on the left are the ones who will compromise because of the need of a left(ish) of centre government. It was, and always was/is those on the right of the party who will not. They are still within the party pulling the strings – I suppose that is why he won’t say or do all those very simple things asked.

Though Ed Balls won’t be supported because of the mistakes that he has made in the past, respect for him is growing because he is giving black-eyes where needed. E’Mil may not be combative enough, it could be as simple as that – but one thing the British voter does like when needed is someone who will stand up and fight – as you say when things are going good they don’t care much, but when, like now, things are going bad – the country’s leaders have to stand up ready to be counted.

“Though Ed Balls won’t be supported because of the mistakes that he has made in the past, respect for him is growing because he is giving black-eyes where needed.”

The Labour Party needs more than an attack dog as its new leader. Just for starters, the party desperately needs funds to dig it out of a debt hole of £20 millions otherwise bankruptcy beckons.

Since Balls was chief economic adviser in the Treasury from 1997 though 2005, he might at least show signs that he has read and understands the implications of Joe Stiglitz’s column in Friday’s FT:

Needed: a new economic paradigm
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d5108f90-abc2-11df-9f02-00144feabdc0.html

tim f, on thinking about it (and looking into it) a bit more, I think it was the biggest rebellion against Tony Blair’s government up to that day.

Good call Sunny, although I think I’m coming down on the side of Ed Balls (in the absence of John McDonnell), I think Ed Miliband is a decent choice.

Not much of a lefty, nor much of a fighter from what I’ve seen, but he seems affable and positive. So long as Ed Balls is given a position he can get his teeth into (education, health or benefits) and attack I think then the coalition would face a serious opposition.

tim f, uk liberty

I think you’ll find this website useful on parliamentary revolts http://www.revolts.co.uk/ (uk liberty, I think it receives money from the state ;-) you better not look)

I agree, I watched most of the telivised (or internetvised) leadership hustings, and the profiles of the candidates on BBC/C4, and I definitley think that Ed Milliband is the best credible candidate, he seems to have the best attitude to the party and in terms of policy he doesnt sound to bad either, obviously from a purely policy minded perspective, I prefer Dianne Abott, but she wont win, nor do I think she would be a very good leader.

whether or not I would vote for Labour under Ed Milliband is a different question entirely though, it really would depend on the policies, manifesto, etc, coming up to the next election.

‘Though Ed Balls won’t be supported because of the mistakes that he has made in the past, respect for him is growing because he is giving black-eyes where needed. E’Mil may not be combative enough, it could be as simple as that’

Yeah, because that is exactly what I want from politicians – raw machismo. Not! Why would we want somebody who is prepared to listen and negotiate when we could just have somebody who leads fists first? Off for a cold shower with you.

Thanks Left Outside.

“Yeah, because that is exactly what I want from politicians – raw machismo. Not! Why would we want somebody who is prepared to listen and negotiate when we could just have somebody who leads fists first? Off for a cold shower with you.”

Absolutely. The useful link quoted @14 about the decline in party membership shows that political tribalism is on the decline.

The old party loyalties can no longer be relied on and judging by the low turnouts in recent elections, voters can’t even be depended on to get out to vote.

The occasional reminders from David Miliband that the Labour Party needs support from middle class voters in order to win a general election is relevant and timely – which is not to say that many in the Labour Party will take much notice.

Yeah, because that is exactly what I want from politicians – raw machismo. Not! Why would we want somebody who is prepared to listen and negotiate when we could just have somebody who leads fists first? Off for a cold shower with you.

earwic, and Bob –

If the country wasn’t going through such shit, I would have to agree that it is a time for retrospection, to sit around the “Liberal” camp fire singing kumbaja, listening quaintly to one another as the world spins in solace and peace. But, it is not.

Sometimes we have to ask those who want to lead us to have a pair, whether female or male. If you see that as machismo, so be it. Yet – if you think for one camp fire second that the right will not attack whomever becomes leader of the new New Labour Party you fool none but yourself. And that attack will come about five minutes after the result is announced.

What is he going to do to stop illiberal policies ever coming to the fore again? Why hasn’t he shown real anger at what the world financial markets have done to world economies?

Will – er you want introspection – and that’ what I’ve given you. You talk about ‘real anger’ at financial markets – but why not instead look at the proposals and debate them. We can sit around demanding ‘real anger’ but I prefer real proposals. Hence my choice.

Will – er you want introspection – and that’ what I’ve given you. You talk about ‘real anger’ at financial markets – but why not instead look at the proposals and debate them. We can sit around demanding ‘real anger’ but I prefer real proposals. Hence my choice.

If I had wanted introspection then I would have mentioned it – I didn’t, but we can argue that point hence.

Why not look at whose proposals? E’Mil’s or yours?

You have made your choice, one that, as I said above, is no surprise to me. I could not see you backing anyone else. Yet – I must admit I am softening to E’Mil – I do still think he is stained with New Labour colours – he will have to work damned hard to get rid of them – but, as you and I know, his brother will win. We know this because Ed is not true blue Blairite. Ed getting into cabinet too fast has tarred him with the frigging stupid votes he had to make – they are coming back to bite him.

So, as before, I repeat, he needs to show real anger at that I posted, and all over the frigging press. If he does not then he will be seen, as he is, as a mere New Labour puppet. Just debating, in a very civil and nice way, the proposals negates the “real anger” that, as it seems to me – you are over-looking – is in the country as a whole. If Ed wants the job, where are the pic-ops in the sick estates taking the flack? Staged stuff is seen as it is – staged.

I won’t go on, it would turn into an essay – but Ed is missing quite a few opportunities, but I suppose he has to get passed the hierarchy of New Labour first, which I cannot see him doing because he has mentioned a few leftish things in the last few days – and ffs tell him to leave the daft “LibDems Labour will love you if you come over to us … ” That’s bollox! So many want a leader of the Labour party who will make them feel they are voting for the right thing – not just to add to the coffers.

Two pieces I read of him in The Guardian – one quite well done, the other, I simply cringed as it was total twattery!

“But he does not represent a break from the past: a past that saw the second lowest share of the vote the party has ever achieved.”

I take it you meant in the post-war period as opposed to the years since universal suffrage… Ol’ Ramsay didn’t poll as well as Brown or Foot.

Will @33 – that is a pathetic misinterpretation of my comment.


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  39. SOCIALIST UNITY » WHY I AM BACKING ED MILIBAND

    […] By Sunny Hundal from Liberal Conspiracy […]





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