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The Opposite of Leadership

John Rentoul

mililaser 196x300 The Opposite of Leadership Having been elected Labour leader by a trade union ramp against the wishes of party members and MPs, Ed Miliband had to show that he wasn’t the creature of the clique of Marxists, fellow travellers and useful idiots that controls the largest union, Unite.

He tried briefly two years ago to rewrite the rule book to cut the union vote at Labour conference, but failed. And now that the Unite machine has blown up while Miliband’s reluctantly-relied-upon fixer Tom Watson was tinkering with it, it is too late.

That is the gist of my column for The Independent on Sunday.

As if to prove my point, Miliband’s people have briefed The Guardian about the firm, decisive action he is taking to show who is in charge. Yesterday, he was going to “review” the relationship between the party and the unions. Today, he is going much further. He is going to rewrite a code of conduct for candidates in selection contests.

That, and he is going to “canvass” some options for reform, including open primaries, as I suggested in my column. Reacting to events and followership, not leadership.

Of course, most normal people are not interested in the claims and counter-claims about Unite’s attempt to influence the selection of a Labour candidate in Falkirk and 40 other constituencies. Nor do they think “the trade unions” are the wreckers of the economy that they were in the 1970s. But they can sense leadership, and YouGov’s findings for The Sunday Times today are not good for Miliband:

Thinking about Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party, do you think he…

Has been a strong or weak leader of his party?

A strong leader 10% (-6 since September 2012)

A weak leader 47% (+10)

Would or would not be up to the job of prime minister?

Would be up to the job of PM 20% (-5)

Would not be up to the job of PM 57% (-6)

Going backwards over the past 10 months: not great.

Picture of a different Ed Miliband via Rosie R

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  • reformist lickspittle

    Most MPs decided to try and move on from the war after it had happened – given that it almost split the party in two.

    Nobody was expecting DM to denounce Blair and all his works (Iraq included) – just to show that he understood the party needed to move on from those days. But the unrepentant “true believers” like Rentoul weren’t having this – they saw David as ensuring a new Blairite restoration after the Brown “terror”.

    Even though this wasn’t wanted by most people in the party (and that INCLUDES many who in fact had DM as first choice, as I did) That is why the Rentoul fantasy expressed above, that most members and MPs felt “robbed” by the result, is just that.

  • mightymark

    Neat shifting of the goal posts there! Suddenly its no longer about Ed but David. Hey presto – the speed of the hand deceives the eye (well, not mine!).

    By the way a “new Blairite restoration” in effect if not name, is all but inevitable at some point. Labour cannot succeed if it moves too far away from Blair’s ideas. Public service reform for example answers the need both for more responsive services for users and for effiiciencies that keep spending under control to deal with the deficit. If that doesn’t happen the siren calls from the right for a wholesale move to private insurance (albiet state funded for the poorest) will become irresistable.

    Maybe there will still be a role for a party very broadly of the left after that happens but it probably won’t look like Labour – old or new.

  • reformist lickspittle

    This obsession with “public service reform” is one of the things that marks out the Blairite “true believers” as a rather weird and cultish sect these days. Ask 1,000 people at random what most bothers them regarding the issues of the day, and if you are lucky you might get ONE who mentions “public service reform”. Its roughly comparable to the support for TUSC ;)

    Blairism has run into the sand because it has nothing to say about THE central problem in the developed world today – how to rein in the tiny, unaccountable, venal and destructive super rich minority who continue to hoard still greater wealth and power (and whilst growing numbers slip into genuine poverty)

  • mightymark

    It can certainly be painted as arcane – however you don’t really address the argument in its favour. Moreover you don’t actually say what you want to do in respect of your second point – the super rich as against growing poverty. So lets set it out. There are two choices – you can cut yourself off from international capitalism by adopting a “socialism in one country” approach. You don’t worry about markets, currencies, interest rates and the like – what we can sell as a country we would sell and use the earnings to buy, I’d imagine, mainly food. You would have to accept a huge fall in living standards but yes – the very rich would go, decline or maybe be shot. At least you would be shot – of them. Poverty would obviously disappear as everyone would become equally poor. If you think there are any votes in that how about standing at an election with a group of like minded mates?.

    The alternative is to stay in the international markets accepting that we are in a period globally in which certain people are able to command what some, myself included, would regard as obscenely large salaries etc (though interestingly footballers and pop stars earn similar sums to univrersal unconcern) and work e.g. through international institutions to ameliorate that – and get a Government which places a priority on dealing with poverty and disadvantage. Doubtless this sounds like er, lickspittle politics to you but I think the alternative is worse and moreover no one would vote for it.


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