September 26, 2010


Ed Miliband: You thought fighting your brother was tough. That was the easy bit (Andrew Rawnsley, 9/26/10, The Observer)

Congmiserations, Ed Miliband. Given the mix of opportunity and peril that faces you, it seems right to offer both congratulations and commiserations. You have just become the 10th postwar leader of the Labour party. It is a sobering thought that only five of them (Attlee, Wilson, Callaghan, Blair and Brown) became prime minister; only three (Attlee, Wilson and Blair) won elections; and just one (Blair) managed to secure more than a single term with a decent parliamentary majority. After being removed from office, Labour tends to spend a long time out of power: after 1951, 13 long years; after 1979, 18 even longer years; after 2010… Well, that is now in your hands.

Ed Miliband, radical with a feel for Labour's soul (Agence France-Presse, 9/26/10)

Ed Miliband, the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour, has shot up the ranks to win over the party with his progressive radical prescription for restoring it to power.

Ed Miliband emerged as a serious player since serving as energy and climate change secretary in the former Labour government, becoming a popular figure with the party's grassroots left-wing supporters. [...]

The son of Ralph Miliband, one of the foremost Marxist theorists of the 20th century, the Londoner now faces the challenge of remolding Labour into an election-winning force following its defeat in the May general election. [...]

He is more left-leaning than his brother David and considers himself a progressive, radical modernizer. His campaign was based on reaching out to Labour's core working-class supporters and earned the backing of six trade unions - three times more than any other candidate. "The party needs to rediscover the radicalism that drives our progressive mission as the most powerful transformative force for good in our society," he said during his campaign. He urged Labour to become "the idealists again in British politics."

By choosing Ed Miliband, Labour has handed David Cameron the next election: Labour chose to be soothed by Ed Miliband rather than challenged by David, and it will suffer the consequences (Matthew d'Ancona, 9/25/10, Daily Telegraph)
The last time Labour held an internal election of such consequence and such closeness, it opted for sanity rather than for demotic irrelevance. In 1981, Denis Healey defeated Tony Benn for the deputy leadership – "by the hair of my eyebrow", as he puts it in his memoirs – scraping to victory by 50.426 per cent against 49.574 per cent. That contest marked the beginning of the long, long fightback against the Left that was to lead in turn to Neil Kinnock's reforms, and Tony Blair's aggressive modernisation.

Yesterday, in Manchester, the tide turned once more. Ed Miliband is no Tony Benn (although he was backed by him). But the symmetry is precise in this sense. In September 1981, Labour chose to stay in contention. In September 2010, it chose comfort. In 1981, it remembered – just – that its ultimate responsibility was to the electorate. Yesterday, the party chose to please itself. [...]

Why am I so sure that the new Labour leader is an election loser? Because he was chosen on a false prospectus, or rather one founded on collective delusion. The party somehow convinced itself that it had found its own Obama, a supposed visionary who would draw a line under the Blair-Brown era and build a new progressive coalition of voters. Miliband's genius in the campaign was to make the retro seem new and exciting, to make tribal introspection seem bold and outward-reaching. He spoke of "renewal" and a fresh start. Yet his impulse was always to make Labour feel good about itself and its core instincts, and to blame election defeat on the sort of things Labour activists hate (inequality, the Iraq war, New Labour's cosying up to the financial sector).

He successfully misrepresented his brother as the puppet of the "Labour establishment". But he himself wrote the party's (dire) election manifesto this year, and was before that a key adviser to Gordon Brown and member of his Cabinet. His most vocal supporters include Kinnock and his former deputy, Roy Hattersley, which tells you a lot about where on Labour's ideological spectrum Miliband's heart really lies.

The Thatcher of the Left - or Kinnock Mk2?: Why the unions and the Tories are delighted Ed Miliband has won (James Forsyth, 26th September 2010, Daily Mail)
[I]t is Ed’s willingness to indulge the party that worries many of the Blairite old guard, the people who took Labour from 18 years of Opposition to three consecutive Election victories.

They worry that Ed’s commitment to, as he puts it, ‘never leave the party behind’ means that he’ll never challenge it. That – in the words of Alastair Campbell – he’ll make ‘the party feel OK about losing’.

The attacks on Ed Miliband from the Blairite old guard have been so strident because they fear what he represents – the end of the New Labour project.

They are right. He heralds a distinct move to the Left.

Ed Miliband is not a politician searching for the centre ground. Instead, he is an ideological Left-winger. He wants higher taxes, more spending and more regulation.

As with the Democrats after 8 years of Bill Clinton and the GOP after 8 of W, the trauma of wielding power as a popular Third Way party was just too much for Labour, so they reverted to their Second Way atavism. Inevitably, after a period in the wilderness they'll return to "modernization" or "neo-liberalism" or "Blairism" or "New Labourism" or whatever they feel they need to call it, if/when the Tories turn on David Cameron and his Thatcherism/Blairism in their turn.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2010 8:20 AM
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