Tag Archive: Ed Miliband


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Wednesday night on Newsnight there was the beginning of an attempt to define Milibandism. An interesting and thoughtful film by Rafeal Behr was followed by a less than edifying debate between Behr and former Blair speech writer Phil Collins. The debate – such as you could call it that – was almost completely derailed by Collin’s incredibly sneering and dismissal of “the left” as naive, and the financial crisis as merely a bump in the road of business as usual.
It takes quite an incredibly degree of wilful blindness not to see the crash of 2008 as a turning point for our understanding of economics. It hasn’t resulted in an immediate understanding of what changes are required. It hasn’t resulted in a reversion to leftist statism. But it has changed the public perception of our current capitalist system and has made questioning that system politically possible for the first time since the Thatcher revolution.

Blairism was about harnessing the proceeds of rampant capitalism to do social good. This model deliberately allowed the market a free reign, intervening after the inevitable damage had been done to make a difference where it was needed. Tax credits, investment in welfare, record investment in schools and hospitals were possible during the Blair years, because the economy was booming. But Blairism turned out to be as unsustainable as the economy that funded it. The Right have successfully if completely wrongly and cynically managed to convince the public that government spending was run rampant. This – more than anything else – is what has killed Blairism.

There can be no return to that model even as the economy improves.

Collins repeated the mantra last night that Ed Miliband’s Labour party and “the left” (which he conflates as a whole which might surprise a few of our left wing and decidedly un-Milibandite readership) haven’t grasped that the future – at least the immediate future – is about how to govern when there is no money. This is where I think Collins could not be more wrong about Miliband – though he is right about elements of the left. It is the response of a Blairite who has lost the supply-side part of the Blair equation. It is the response of someone who sees the only other option put forward by the left as the strong and over-arching state. This is not the offer Miliband is making.

The heart of the Miliband project, is about changing the points at which Government can and should intervene. This is hard to articulate and we are struggling to raise it beyond emblematic policies like the energy freeze. At the moment it remains stuck in the language of the seminar room. Predistribution and responsible capitalism are hard concepts to sell on the doorstep, but that does not make them the wrong choices for Labour.

A Miliband-led government would be one where the state was made smaller through deliberate early activity. It would have no compunction in intervening in markets that were failing to produce the right outcomes for citizens. Miliband’s Labour would use the state to intervene early before inequalities are compounded, to create the right conditions for people to thrive.

Where Milibandism is likely to diverge from the traditional left, is that having created those conditions, a Miliband-led government would expect citizens to take responsibility for grasping their opportunities. If we can truly reshape the economy to work for the majority then that can and must change our understanding of governmental support.

Which is why every idea emanating on welfare for those who can work is tied up in conditionality. Those who can work, should work – from each according to their ability to each according to their need is not just about the need. But work should be properly rewarding in a way so much of it fails to be under the free market free-for-all, fair-for-few system we have now. Equally in healthcare. If we were able to move to a model where we are able to intervene earlier, it would again reduce costs and therefore budgets. For example, hospitals would close, because we would stop forcing all the capacity into the most acute end of care, and we could vastly reduce the demand for these services.

Are the left ready to accept this? It might be argued the response to this week’s interesting and largely sensible IPPR report on ending NEET culture shows that they are not. I also doubt many of us are ready to celebrate hospital closures (and of course, the system is not geared yet to early intervention, so we still need this acute care, so for the moment there is nothing to celebrate)? This is not statism as it has come to be defined.

The end result of Milibandism is not a large, benevolent, paternalistic state, but one that is small, agile and empowering. If Milibandism works, spending on welfare, health and social care – for example – should go down, must go down. This will be a sign of it’s success, but it is hard to see it being celebrated by Old Labour.

I firmly believe Miliband is on the right path. But it will be beset with obstacles thrown at him by those who resist losing their old models – be they New or Old Labour. So those of us who want to see these fundamental changes need to stand up. We need to shout up. We need to be counted.

This post first appeared on LabourList.

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On Saturday, the Daily Mail published one of the most horrendous example of the dark political arts I have ever come across. Forget Damian McBride, to denigrate (yes Geoffrey – to traduce even) the life of a dead man for political advantage is about as low as it is possible to stoop.

I have written previously about the positive aspects of the Daily Mail. The reasons I have enjoyed reading it in the past and the reasons other do too. The people I know who read the Daily Mail are good people. Conservative (sometimes with a small c, sometimes with a large one) they are people who could best be described as encapsulating the ideals of faith, flag and family. They would all be horrified to see an attack on a dead family member (and especially one who fought in the Royal Navy during the war) be seen as fair political game. It is not, and it should not be.

Ralph Miliband is hardly the first victim of this kind of shoddy journalism nor the Daily Mail the singular perpetrator. Other victims that spring to mind are Cherie Booth and Miriam González Durántez, both of whom have constant attacks made in the media on their jobs, character and choices simply by dint of being married to political leaders.

But tonight, Ed Miliband has drawn a line in the sand. He has demanded – and received – right of reply to the Daily Mail article. In doing so, he may have made one of his strongest interventions yet, changing the way we do politics in this country and making a start on rescuing our debate from the gutter and those who see the role of the press as belonging in that gutter.

Politics is incredibly important. If affects the lives of everyone. But genuine information is hard to come by, informed debate even harder. scrutiny of our politicians – their belief and their personal trustworthiness to deliver on those beliefs is essential. But personal attacks simply put off yet more people from involving themselves in the horrific blood sport that is modern politics.

This is why the MacBride book damages all of us. Not because he had a “smoking gun” (he didn’t) but because his kind of behavior and his odd crowing about it even while claiming repentance makes politics an unattractive place for all but the most godawful macho dick-swingers. Too many good people are put off doing politics well by aggressive people doing it badly.

By challenging the Mail to do politics better – and by making clear efforts to rid Labour of the poisonous briefing culture that MacBride embodied at our worst – Ed is matching plans to democratise Labour’s relationship with union members and expanding the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. All of these measures and others talk about a new way of doing politics, a popular promise the Coalition made early in their government and have routinely failed to deliver.

The Tory message on Ed is clearly in disarray this week. They don’t know whether to keep calling him weak or start calling him dangerous. Doing both just makes them look daft. But with this move, Ed has shown himself to once again be strong in standing up for what matters – not just to him personally (as his father’s reputation clearly and rightly does) but to all those from every party who want to see a better way of conducting our politics.

Now is the time for those from other Parties to speak up and stand by Ed on this issue. It is too important for all of us who desire a more civil and better informed debate not to.

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As I’ve said before, Labour needs to move on from Blair. Not because New Labour was an intrinsically wrong approach to the issues Labour and the country faced in 1994, but because Continuity New Labour is the intrinsically wrong approach to the issues Labour and the country are faced with in 2013. Mark Ferguson is quite right that the old fashioned and out of touch nature of Blair’s calls for a bloodless, pre-social media, message managed approach that simply has no place in modern politics.

New Labour was born from terrible beginnings. The architects were right that Labour had become an electoral disaster stuck in a comfort mode of simply opposing and not offering a fully coherent and attractive alternative government. Labour cannot and must not fall into the trap of just being oppositional. But this is not a binary choice. We don’t have to choose between highlighting the cruelties and failures of the Tory approach and offering our own alternatives. A good opposition must do both.

I get that the result of the 1992 election scarred a lot of people in the Labour Party. But we need to move on from that too. Because the 1997 – 2007 way of doing things has become just as much of a comfort blanket to some Labour members as has the 1980 – 1987 approach.

There seems to have settled in some less imaginative members of the Labour Party an idea that there are only two ways of being Labour – new and old. If you aren’t one, you simply must be the other. But to those of us who are neither it’s deeply insulting. We’ve moved beyond both. Which is good because neither have the answers we need now. This is not about the battles of the past – be they Foot Vs Thatcher or Brown Vs Blair. It’s about the battles of the present and the battle for the future.

Just as Thatcher set the tone from the 80s for those who would follow her from Labour, so too did Blair set the tone for those who would follow him from the Conservatives. That’s why Lance Price is so wrong to argue that Ed Miliband is in trouble if the Tories agree with Blair’s analysis. The truth is quite the opposite. If Ed Miliband really is determined to be a politician who changes the consensus – as I believe he is – then surprising your opponents is essential. Cameron and Osborne are dealing with their own comfort zones too. Between their Thatcherite policy making and sub-Blairite politicking they show little attempt at truly being a Government that can change the political consensus. Cameron and Osborne agree with Blair simply becuase they lazily took on his approach to political analysis and communication rather than ever trying to define and carve out their own space and define their own style.

Ed isn’t doing that. Ed has his own analysis, and his own approach. That’s quite right but it’s also quite unsettling for those whose approach he is moving away from. But that’s why it is a million miles from either of Labour’s stifling comfort zones.

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When Ed Miliband says he wants to be like Margaret Thatcher, he doesn’t mean by devastating the working class, the north and presiding over a bitterly divided country. But he should know that that is exactly how his party will hear it, so why does he say it at all?

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Ed’s speech was a barnstormer. He came into conference the most secure of all the party leaders, but that didn’t stop the inevitable chatter around his leadership from the press. This might. The press have seen now what I saw in Ed before the leadership contest, and what led to me supporting him.

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The curly sandwiches have all been eaten, the beer has all been drunk and everyone has a cold. It must be end of conference season. For the first time in my life, I attended all three Party conferences this year.  I met and spoke with friends from each Party, and I also took the time to just sit quietly in the throng and listen to what the delegates had to say when talking to each other. This – far more than the stage managed media focused messages from the stages – will tell you where a party is at.

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So yesterday I tweeted that the poll that rates Ed Balls highly shouldn’t bother Ed Miliband. That Balls is seen as doing better than his opposite number is good news – for Ed Balls, for Labour and for Ed Miliband. We are – after all – a team whose collective success comes together or not at all.

Sadly it seems some of those close to both Ed’s didn’t get the memo. They have allowed their egos to elevate their petty office politics over the essential national politics of removing the corrosive Tories from office and getting our economy working again for everyone.

Mark Ferguson is right – these people should shut up. Not least because in acting the way they are, they demonstrate little understanding of politics nous; something I would have thought pretty essential in a “senior advisor” or Shadow Cabinet Minister – even an unnamed one. Guys, you’re making fools of yourselves; sadly you’re making fools of the Party too.

Ed M’s team have demonstrated before a lack of discipline. Both Ed’s have come from the worst possible experience of rancorous personal relationships and the mismanagement of petty squabbling. They more than most must know how divisive and ultimately counter-productive it is. They are the ones who will need to get a grip on this now. In essence, the failures of their staff lie with them and their cultural leadership; the buck stops with them.

I’ve worked in a lot of different office places with a lot of different management structures. One thing I have learned is that you cannot and will not stop staff gossiping with each other and having opinions that often differ from management as to how things should be run. It’s perfectly natural for those at the sharp end to have such opinions, but where things are well managed, they don’t feel the need to share these thoughts with outside organisations.

Good managers work with their staff to ensure they are able to have an input and feel a part of the organisation. This ensures they excel at their jobs and have the ability to learn and develop as they do. If they don’t, these frustrations spill over into tensions. In this case, they seem to have manifested in anonymous briefings. I guess that’s more likely in politics than in any of the other places I have worked. The political lobby act as if every day is a basically a gossip session behind the bike sheds and being listened to by a big name journalist can make you feel very important, especially if no one else is listening.

I was going to write a post about my anger and disappointment in those who have been briefing, but Mark has already done a superb job of articulating how let down Labour members are by this kind of behaviour. Ultimately though it is the responsibility of the leadership to change what is happening. They must instil a culture where this kind of thing is not just not tolerated, but is not necessary.

I have also worked for a real variety of managers. I know good management when I experience it. I’ve been very lucky in that I have experienced it often. Sometimes I have been less lucky. I have also been a good and a bad manager.

Good organisations recognise and cherish the art of management. Management should not be an add-on to a promotion – a hoop you have to jump through in order to earn more and progress through an organisation. Management is a skill that must be developed and nurtured. It must be supported by proper management systems that are embedded and respected within the culture of the organisation.

There is no shame in not being a born manager. It is not the same thing as being a born leader. It can be learned and should be developed. It must be valued. Learning how to give and receive management advice, to give and receive feedback and appraisals and to ensure a continuous open and trustworthy relationship between line manager and staff is vital. It aids productivity and the positive feedback loop that a decent working experience can bring.

Recent changes at our Head Office seem to reflect this and have – as I understand it – made the chain of command clearer and brought management responsibilities into sharper focus. The same must be done with our party in Westminster – particularly it seems with those close to the leadership.

Yes, our staff members should not be running to tittle-tattle to the newspapers. But do they have a forum for constructive criticism? Do they have a space when they can tell their manager their concerns and know how those concerns will be addressed? If not, this is not just a failure of the staff members, but a failure of our culture. That’s what has to change.

This post first appeared on LabourList.

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My vision of Englishness

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By Emma | 2 comments

For me, my life, my memories and my experience of Englishness was formed in Stoke Newington where I grew up. All those things that made me English, including, but hardly limited to my birth in this particular geographical location happened in or near there.

But I know Englishness when I see it. And I see it everywhere in England.

 

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I’m an odd sort of politico at times.

Like all other political obsessives, I have my passions,  my causes and my beliefs. I have a vision for what I want from the Labour Party and the next Labour Government. But within that vision, are layers of possibilities. An understanding that my utopia will not be the same as my neighbours (especially as we’re both quite loud, and have very, very different taste in music). I understand the bargaining that an appeal to electability across a mass audience can bring. But even with this understanding, I know that there is and always must be a difference between bargaining and capitulation.

I’m an odd sort of politico at times.

I see too many people on every side of any argument cherry pick evidence to prove not just that a policy will work, but that it will be popular. Clutching at those articles that reinforce your world view, while disregarding anything that challenges it. I think that to be a Socialist, you have to be an optimist. Not necessarily an unrealistic one, but an optimist nonetheless. But to be a strategist, you have to be a pessimist. Not a hopeless one - that’s no good to anyone – but able to see the bumps in the road. Reconciling the need for pessimism in favour of the greater cause of optimism is tough to balance. So it’s not that I am not easily pleased, more that my fear of being too easily pleased will send me too far in the other direction.

I’m an odd sort of politico. For these reasons, when I read something that I find speaks to both my desire for how things are, and my sense of how tings could be, my first reaction is not joy, but caution. Like Mulder, I want to believe. Like Scully, I want to see proof.

This is how I felt when I read Andrew Harrop’s excellent and potential strategy changing article on Labour List about “Ed’s Converts”. If this research is robust (and the Fabians are rarely anything but),  then it supports my belief that Labour has a new space arising from the Lib Dems abandoning their left flank to go into coalition. A space to be a more openly Socially Democratic Labour Party and future government. I want this research to be be right so much. So much so that my Spidey-senses are tingling. Do I want it too much? Does the research really support a more left-leaning Labour Party? I want this research to be right and I want it proved right, and as such it will need to be tested almost to destruction. If it can withstand all that might be thrown at it, it could be the basis for a realignment of politics as powerful and successful as New Labour. I hope that the Fabian “Labour’s Next Majority” project will do that testing. I have a few questions that I’d like to offer for their consideration.

The first place I would want that testing to begin is on the idea of the current coalition of interests that make up that group. In Andrew’s piece he speaks of two core groups that make up the group: lower income communities and left liberals. These two groups are not always ones it is easy to produce compatible messages for. On areas like crime for example, they are often diametrically opposed, while both rating their issues highly. For example around surveillance and the role of the state. Would appealing to one group automatically repel the other? How do Labour chart their way through that territory.

Equally, the article states that the worst case scenario with these groups is a hung Parliament with Labour the largest Party. But id their support is as solid as that supposes, would it not be more electorally viable (if not, for me, politically desirable) to tack right and shore up some centrist floating 2010 Tory voters? What would and what wouldn’t put these voters off and how can or should they be slotted into an “Ed’s Converts” based strategy?

Finally – just as part of a starting response – what can and what should we be promising the left in order to keep it united? When does the left’s optimism become the naivete of stereotype? I think we have more scope than some, but we’re not going to be living in or building a brave new world come 2015. Many of the problems that are stymieing Governments of all kinds all over the world will still be ongoing. It will not be simple and it will not be perfect. If this is the framework for a new coalition of the Left, forged under a Labour banner, how do we make sure it doesn’t just win, but lasts?

Those are a few questions I think need to be looked at as an ongoing part of the Fabian’s excellent work. I am incredibly excited by this, and the way you can tell is that I’m questioning it. Strengthening through questioning is – to my mind – the best possible way to support the growth of an idea. I’ll be hoping to contribute further to the Fabian’s ongoing work in this area, and I look forward to more like this.

I want to believe!

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It’s reshuffle time again. Let joy in Westminster be uncontained. Rumours abound. Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s in, out or sideways?

For Labour questions include the unlikely Will this be a glorious leftist revolution? and the more likely Will it be steady as she goes? The coalition have more to worry about right now. Does Cameron have enough women in the Tory Party to move Theresa May, Cheryl Gillan, Baroness Warsi and Caroline Spelman all at once? Does Nick Clegg have any women he can promote to the cabinet at all? Will Vince move? Can Laws return? Who will they keep in the Cabinet just to keep them off the backbenches?
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