What Next for Labour?

John Rentoul

The Peoples Party We Am One What Next for Labour?A few butterflies to pin to the board before entering the parallel universe known as the family Christmas. (Which reminds me of one of Chris Dillow’s apologies for lack of blogging. He had a family disaster, he said. “They came to visit.”)

First, I have a complaint to make about my dear friend Jackie Ashley. Not that she says I am wrong, or uncharitable to the leader of The People’s Party,* but that she describes me as a “former Blairite”.

I don’t know if she might be described as a “former Brownite” but there is nothing former about my iteness, even if I disagreed with the finest peace-time prime minister on something the other day.

It does not help her case that there seem to be rather a few former ites around of another stripe, namely the former supporters of the present leader of TPP.

My excellent colleague, Jane Merrick, political editor of The Independent on Sunday, interviewed Tom Scholes-Fogg at the weekend. He was a volunteer on Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign, and has since edited What Next for Labour? The answer is a new leader, apparently, this time a woman:

When Ed gave his speech to conference in 2010, I was sitting behind him on stage, and I was thinking I have backed the right person to get Labour back into Downing Street. A year on, I do regret backing him. If there was a leadership election with the same five candidates I would now back David Miliband. David is more of a statesman. He would be taking on the Government much more, and laying out his vision for the country and the Labour Party.

Ed Miliband, on the other hand, is in the middle of nowhere. He said he will fight for the centre ground, but he hasn’t identified where that centre ground is. I don’t know what he stands for, or where he wants to take the country.

Ed is very personable, while David was more arrogant and expected the leadership to be handed to him on a plate. But arrogance isn’t necessarily a bad thing in politics.

Ed has largely been a disaster at PMQs. He did quite well over phone hacking, but it is about being in tune with the public on more than one issue.

His conference speech in September just wasn’t a speech from a leader who wants to be prime minister. There is not very much he can do if he doesn’t believe in himself.

With female voters leaving the Conservatives in droves, the Labour Party should seize on this and perhaps consider a new female leader.

Then there was this, by James Macintyre, co-author of a “sympathetic” biography of the Labour leader, in the Guardianon Wednesday:

He has yet to justify standing against his brother.

“David had a plan,” Ed admitted to an ally recently. “I didn’t.” His operation, as he himself has been known to concede, so far lacks maturity and government experience. The leader is shielded from criticism. Shadow cabinet ministers are instructed to portray the Tories as “out of touch”, as opposed to ideological and rightwing, yet this line is having little effect.

There is a sense of complacency and drift, with no medium- or long-term vision of where the party is heading. Labour unease came to a head last Wednesday, when Cameron hit a nerve by laughing off splits with Nick Clegg over Europe, saying, “it’s not like he’s my brother”.

Why does the David issue matter still? Because Ed always had to make a special effort to get off the thin ice below his leadership. First, he caused real family and party trauma by his decision to stand against David, the circumstances around which remain so murky that the brothers cannot agree on when – and whether – Ed made his intentions clear.

Second, David won a “moral” victory in the contest last September, winning more votes among members and MPs and leaving Ed to rely on the trade unions.


He, too, tips Yvette Cooper as a possible successor.

I wonder what Mehdi Hasan, his co-author, thinks?

Picture: Wide-Eyed Nation

*Mind you, I draw the line at “vicious”. I hope I have never indulged in personal abuse (I did call him a panda once, but that was a misspelling, because I thought he would pander to oppositionalism; which he did).

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  • David Julian Price

    The irony is that the public weren’t sick of Blair, the Labour Party was. Blair won 3 landslide elections and would probably have – just – held on in 2010 if Brown hadn’t stabbed him in the back.

    Shakespeare couldn’t have written a more perfect character than Gordon Brown, the author of his own, his party and his country’s misfortune.

  • David Julian Price

    Blair made a massive long list of mistakes and blunders in government, but still he was more popular than his party out there in the real world. This is the single, fundamental thing that Labour party activists fail to understand. It doesn’t matter if Blair was Satan (some think he was!), he was an electable Satan and Brown was not. One of Brown’s many destructive acts was to make the Labour Party unelectable by removing Blair. If he had not done that, Blair could have scraped it in 2010 and stood down for David Miliband to take over round about now. That would have kept Cameron et. al out for another 5-10 years, neutralising the Tories’ greatest asset. Nice one Gordon!

  • AlanGiles

    No David, Rentoul has been making his bitchy little remarks since the day Blair left power – first against Brown, then Ed Miliband. He is like one of the Tories who didn’t want any leader except Mrs Thatcher – and still do, even though the poor old soul is now in her dotage.

    Rentoul makes fart many more negative posts aginst Ed Milioband than he does David Cameron or Nick Clegg
    He wanted David Miliband because he believes he is identical to Blair – which may be true, but in doing so he conveniently forgets Blair managed to loose 99 seats at the 2005 election, and bnoth Labour and non-Labour voters were tired of him.

    In all hoesnty David Miliband would do no better than his brother, and he cafrries more baggage , in that he was heavilly implicated in both the Iraq war fiasco and the expenses scandal, neither of which applies to Ed.

  • David Julian Price

    In a sense I think you’re spot on. Labour’s current position of only 4 out of 5 cuts is risible. It needs tangenital thinking, with truly ambitious schemes and ideas. Right now they’re trying to feign outrage and indignation at the horror of all these terrible cuts, whilst proposing almost all of them anyway. This is a dreadful and cynical strategy that has the fingerprints of Ed Balls all over it – something he used to do with Brown year on year. Basically it relies on the idea that the public is stupid, but sadly for him (and Labour) it isn’t.

  • David Julian Price

    Well, keep thinking that if you want to…

    Sadly those events can advantage Cameron and disadvantage Miliband just as much as the other way round – as we’ve seen with the recent EU veto.

    I agree that any Labour leader, no matter how good, couldn’t be doing that much better than Ed right now, but that in no way means Ed is suddenly going to come good around election time. He isn’t, because he can’t, because he’s the wrong man for the job.

  • David Julian Price

    Yes – I was a Blairite and even I think that’s a bit strong!

  • David Julian Price

    Ridiculous as it sounds, he’d be a far, far tougher opponent for Cameron. I am not seriously suggesting he comes back, but just imagine if he did. That smug smile would be wiped off George Osborne’s face, for sure. Right now George is 100% sure there will be a majority Tory government in 3 1/2 years time; if Blair was back those odds would go south. This simply makes the point that Miliband (Ed) isn’t fit for purpose; the only one who’d put the wind up the Tories is his brother.

  • Guest

    Hague remains a better conservative than his successors, and Ed Mili is the right man for the job now and into 2015. The zeitgeist is to rebuild in a new way and that is his bag.

  • AlanGiles

    With respect David, You, like Rentoul are assuming the country would have tolerated Blair and then his mini me David Miliband. D Miliband would like to have taken on Iran, but most of the country was sick to death of being constantly at war with somebody or other. It also blew a hole in our finances to fight unwinnable wars.

    Blair and David Miliband are yesterdays men. End of.

  • AlanGiles

    Having talentless know-nothings hasn’t hurt in the past, ahas it David?

    Mandy and his pomposity and mortgage scams

    Byers, the taxi for sale

    Milburn who twice run away from the front bench

    and of course, Purnell, who, when he wasn’t losing his parliamentary pass in Soho and claiming for non-existant cleaning bills, was busy importing Tories into positions of authority.

    If you think ed Miliband is a symptom, his brother would be an even worse one.

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