It was announced last weekend that after many weeks of touring, over endless Hustings and one Question Time that Ed Miliband had succeeded in his quest to become the next Labour leader. A lot was made in the press about this rare phenomenon whereby both he and his brother, David, were competing for the top job; this was probably built up in the press to spark some excitement into a decidedly mature and uncontroversial leadership race. Previous articles on this blog have supported David’s campaign so is Ed’s appointment a danger to Labour or the coalition?
There has been a lot of press regarding Labour’s ‘shift to the left’ as a result of electing Ed. This could be unfair but the perceived ‘shift’ is equally as damaging as a genuine move left. The major unions had backed Ed through a disproportionate amount of funding and handed out leaflets and flyers supporting Ed to their members. Ed surely must realise that being seen to be in the pockets of the unions is both damaging for himself as well as Labour – nonetheless, they have claimed to have ‘got their man’.
He has a tough job ahead of him as he attempts to steer Labour down a path he feels is the best. He has alienated Blairites by declaring that New Labour is no longer needed (David has stepped away from front bench politics altogether); in an attempt to draw a line under Iraq he declared that Labour was wrong to go to war (even though at the time he wasn’t an MP) and; he has yet to set out any distinct policy direction. He has been known to dither when it comes to making a decision in Westminster and does he have the quick-wit and charisma which is so desperately needed every Wednesday in the House?
Whether he has shifted to the left or not he has declared that he will move the party towards his ‘type of socialism’; clearly rebuking his nickname of Red-Ed… Where were the PR advisors when he decided to use these emotive words? Not even Brown would dare use such terms.
The UK needed Labour to elect a statesman with charm and charisma and genuine experience within global politics, someone who could tread that fine line between taxation and incentive and someone who could provide legitimate opposition to the current government.
Unless Ed can convince the public that he doesn’t want to shift the party leftwards Labour will be completely unelectable for the next decade. The issue surrounding the unions will not disappear – this provides huge leverage for the Tories. This blog fears that in Ed Miliband’s attempt to distance himself from New Labour he will sleepwalk back to the 1970s.
The next fascinating development will come when Labour’s shadow cabinet is decided and the policy direction agreed. There have to be experienced figures who can advise Ed and provide an alternative to the leftist approach – if they do not then they may as well set up camp in the political wilderness for a few years to come.