Ruthless Ed is here to stay


9:00 am - September 30th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The speed at which Ed Miliband deposed of Nick Brown yesterday illustrates several things to me: he is eager to stamp his authority and ensure discipline within the party early, and that the brand de-toxificiation project might be deeper than expected.

Take the detox point first. Ed’s inaugural speech might have lacked defining themes for the future, but it was definitely an exercise in accepting that Labour had gotten it wrong on many things in the past. You can’t come out of a 29% vote-share and blame the electorate for the defeat.

And so Ed Miliband ‘out-Blaired Blair‘ by telling the party that entrenched thinking of the past few years had also gone badly wrong.

Saying the Iraq war was wrong is likely only to be the start – remember that Cameron spent nearly two years trying to detoxify the Tory brand.

Which is why he needs the discipline and the authority. Nick Brown and David Miliband’s departures ensures there won’t be any other significant power bases within the party.

The ongoing detoxification will also make it harder for the Tories to define him. ‘Red Ed’ is on it’s way out. Ben Brogan warns of ‘optimistic Ed’:

In public, of course, Mr Miliband is presenting himself as the champion of nicer, gentler policies, using his gangly youthfulness to chide those who dismiss him as Red Ed or Forrest Gump. This, he believes, is in tune with the collaborative politics of coalition, and the smarter Tories inside Downing Street know that kind of language has resonance. This is why, as they head for Birmingham, the Conservatives need to think hard.

Call him ‘ruthless Ed’ if you like because that is what the short-term climate looks like to me (Sarah Ditum explores other attempts). Even Seumas Milne urges him to ‘crack the whip’.

Everyone recognises the need for party loyalty and discipline for now, so don’t expect any of this to be challenged. What matters next is how the shadow cabinet portfolios get handed out.

I expect some vociferous supporters of David Miliband such as Alan Johnson and Douglas Alexander will be embraced and given high-profile portfolios. Chris Bryant too has been exceptionally supportive of Ed since David lost.

But I’m eager to see where Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper will go; both names were on everyone’s lips during conference.

Making Yvette his chancellor would make it even harder for Cameron to define and attack Ed. I’m quite pleased they look so complacent about Ed’s win. They won’t be in that state for long.

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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


Ed needs to define what Labour’s values are, and then point out where the New Labour government diverged from those values when in power. Only this way can activists convince the public that they will get what they vote for when they next vote Labour.

For example, one of the aims of this government is to take all hospitals out of public ownership (this puts them at risk of going bankrupt and their assets being taken over by the private sector – the piecemeal privatisation of hospitals). Yet the roots of this policy lies in New Labour who created the “Office for the third sector” and created the social enterprise definition of Community Interest Company (a not-for-profit private company with a “primarily social purpose”). If I was kind to New Labour I would say that the purpose for these was to allow new not-for-profit companies to be created (like Cafe Direct). But in truth, the main reason was so that Labour could divest the government from the responsibility for providing healthcare and privatise the NHS piecemeal. The first CICs were community health services, and indeed, New Labour actively encouraged community health services to become CICs with the so-called “Right to Request”.

Incidentally, who was the minister for the “third sector” in charge of this privatisation of the NHS between June 2007 and Oct 2008?

If I said that he’s now the leader of the Labour party, would you believe me?

This is why Ed must define Labour’s values and principally say that the idea of private=good; public=bad; third sector=somewhere in between is no longer our mantra. He needs to draw a line in the sand and say “from this point on these are our values and this is what we will campaign on; if we did something else before, we were wrong”. Until he does that the public will simply say “but you did this too” when we try to persuade them against the government policies.

I look forward with interest to seeing how Ed goes about doing this.

A less charitable conclusion is of course that he has no “big idea”, and that he will simply embody New Labour Lite by disowning those parts of the New Labour platform regarded as too toxic, whilst carrying on everything else in much the same vein.

He (and his advisers) have an opportunity, perhaps a once in a generation opportunity, to redefine the politics of the centre left. I hope they have learnt the lessons of the past 13 years, and that they are up to the challenge.

The disposal of Nick Brown was the key event in demonstrating a ruthless streak and rapid decision making. Brown was thought to be a shoo-in for Chief Whip – then he was out.

Yvette Cooper might be a good pick to shadow Osborne. She knows her stuff, and is no soft touch. “Auguste” Balls was good at roughing up “Oiky” Gove on Education, and wherever he ends up, he’ll be equally good at roughing up whoever he’s shadowing.

Might be interesting to see where Sadiq Khan ends up. I’d like to see him on the front bench, if only because it will set the right leaning side of the blogosphere off whingeing about expenses. Paul Staines will be blubbing into his Guinness for weeks afterwards.

Call him ‘ruthless Ed’ if you like because that is what the short-term climate looks like to me

I prefer Edipus, because he fucks members of his family, but each to their own.

I seriously doubt that Blairites comprehend the extent to which chunks of the electorate – as well as chunks of the Labour Party, it seems – want to disown Blair and the Blairite ascendancy.

If Blair had such overwhelming electoral support, as is so often claimed, then how come the Labour Party lost 4 million votes between the elections of 1997 and 2005 and why was the turnout at the 2010 election only 65.1% ? At least that was an improvement on the turnout at the 2001 and 2005 elections but it was still the third lowest since 1945:
http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm

The thought doesn’t seem to have penetrated that Labour won the 2001 and 2005 elections not because the electorate was so impressed with Blair and the performance of New Labour but because of the dismal failings of the Conservatives to present credible alternatives. William Hague in 2001 was clearly against higher taxes, joining the Euro and bogus asylum seekers but it was never clear what he was for. Michael Howard in 2005 was so obviously a stopgap leader after the debacle of the IDS leadership.

I wish Ed well. We will certainly need a credible and effective opposition during the next five years.

If only he had possessed such “gusto” to actually tell other people he was against the war in Iraq, rather than keep it schtum for 7 years until he was running for the leadership of a party desperate for someone to say they were against it.

“Might be interesting to see where Sadiq Khan ends up.”

I had him picked for shadow foreign sec – it’s a thankless job in opposition, he’s in line for a big promotion, he’s a fresh face, and putting someone called Khan in that role would really emphasise the break with Blairite foreign policy.

But he was so rubbish on Newsnight on Tuesday I’m actually not sure he’s up to it.

@Jonn he’s my local MP. A crap public speaker. He needs to learn not to mumble all the time, and actually articulate his points slowly and clearly. Obviously a bit of a political operator – it was no doubt he who authorised briefings against D Miliband and Ed Balls. As Campaign Manager it would be odd if he got some non-job like shadowing Justice. What’s he going to say, “Oi, Ken Clarke, you’re soft on crime?” Ed’s ruled that out already. You’re right, Shadow Foreign Sec would be a bit shit too. Shadow Home is the only real prize after Shadow Chancellor.

@blancio

No health will be the big battleground: the new “Poll Tax”. Ed’s got to pick well, since whoever gets that role and sinks Lansley (as inevitably will happen the NHS White paper is proving to be very unpopular with the public) will reap the accolades.

10. mark wilson

Im quite surprised that Alan Johnson hasn’t been touted as a possible shadow chancellor.
His positive public image and easy charm would be an excellent attribute to have in that role, it would make it much easier for labour to get their arguments across having his personality, especially up against chancellor snape.

“Im quite surprised that Alan Johnson hasn’t been touted as a possible shadow chancellor.”

His name has been mooted in some press reports as a possible escape route for EMiliband from appointing Ed Balls or Yvette Cooper as shadow chancellor. But Alan Johnson could be uneasy as Ed Miliband has a post-grad degree in economics from the LSE, which is more than DMiliband has.

12. Jimbo Squires

70% of all the jobs created in the Labour years from 1997 went to immigrants.

How is Ed going to detoxify that?

@12

Would you rather those immigrants were on the dole? Or is it better for them to be working in our schools, hospitals, care homes etc (not to mention contributing tax to fund the aforementioned services)?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Ruthless Ed is here to stay http://bit.ly/cwFJg5

  2. yorkierosie

    Ruthless Ed is here to stay | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/6YDbCw8 via @libcon

  3. sunny hundal

    Forget 'red Ed', from here on he will be 'ruthless Ed', and for good reason http://bit.ly/cwFJg5

  4. Ged Robinson

    RT @libcon: Ruthless Ed is here to stay http://bit.ly/cwFJg5

  5. RobSimmons

    RT @sunny_hundal: Forget 'red Ed', from here on he will be 'ruthless Ed', and for good reason http://bit.ly/cwFJg5

  6. Jane Phillips

    RT @sunny_hundal: Forget 'red Ed', from here on he will be 'ruthless Ed', and for good reason http://bit.ly/cwFJg5

  7. Tim Moore

    RT @libcon: Ruthless Ed is here to stay http://bit.ly/cwFJg5

  8. BecauseImWorthIt

    RT @libcon: Ruthless Ed is here to stay http://bit.ly/cwFJg5

  9. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Ruthless Ed is here to stay: The speed at which Ed Miliband deposed of Nick Brown yesterday illustrates s… http://bit.ly/aXaVJU





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