After a summer of uncertainty, Labour now has a leader. Ed was my preferred Milliband, but I would have supported either of them as leader. There’s still stupid stuff in the press suggesting that David and his supporters want to make this some kind of soap opera (or Greek Tragedy). Mainly because the ‘political’ correspondents for the Beeb and newspapers etc wouldn’t know real politics if it kicked them on the arse, but they do know how gossip works.
The Tory response has officially been muted, but the attack dogs of the Daily Mail and the blogosphere were straight out of the gates with the “Red Ed” jibes and claims that the Unions ‘own’ the new leader. The Mail went to town (and I’m not linking to that rag) on his domestic situation, as if that’s really important in the 21st Century.
The margin was small (51%-49%, but was actually wider than it was for Nick Clegg when he beat Chris Huhne to the Lib Dem leadership). Yes, the Unions did ‘swing’ the result, but as we’ve had One Member One Vote since 1993, it’s not a result of a few leaders sending blocks of millions, but of individual union members casting their preferences. Let’s be clear, these are union members who voluntarily pay into the political levy, and represent the largest number of Labour supporters and the widest range of ordinary working people. As the CPS is unaffiliated, civil servants will not have been voting. Bob Crow and his RMT were also uninvolved. The largest union voting was Unite, which largely represents the private sector.
It’s also not true to suggest that the Unions are ‘left’ by default. The unions have often acted as a force of moderation in comparison to the political activists in the party membership. I recall the union vote in the mid-90s being important for Smith and Blair to get their reforms of the party through.
I don’t believe that Ed Milliband is all that left-wing when it comes down to it. In contrast to David’s campaign of moderation he may be a little to the left, but the elder Milliband was steering a fairly centre-right path.
Ultimately, I don’t really think that the personality of the leader should make that much difference. The most important thing now is to present a coherent opposition to the Tory-led coalition’s more egregious cuts (while not instinctively opposing those that do make sense, or being seen to deny the need for some means of reducing the deficit in the medium term). Having a leader, soon to be joined by a new Shadow Cabinet team will hopefully provide some focus for that.
I also would think that Balls, Burnham and David Milliband could all find a decent place in the new Shadow Cabinet. The three key Tory Ministers at the moment are Osborne, Gove and Lansley, and each needs to be given a strong opposite number. When Councils start to be hit by cuts to their grants, Pickles will also fall into the spotlight. In a way, it’s good that all of these are Tories, rather than Lib Dems, as I think the best strategy is to point out that the policies of the Coalition are Tory policies. Rather than attacking the Lib Dems, it present them with a dilemma.