The new leader must learn a lesson from Cameron, says John Woodcock

At a time when we are all rightly focussing on how to unite behind our new leader, I just need to say how bloody gutted I am for his brother.

I thought David Miliband was excellent before this contest began, and he rose significantly in my estimation as it progressed.

The Labour party, and ultimately the country, still need him. And, just as much as him, they need the people he inspired through this contest, and the ideas has brought alive.

But while I am so sad for David, I am filled with hope about the leadership that Ed will bring. A win is a win; and whatever the Tories may try to spin, the maths behind his victory and the manner in which he got there are ultimately likely to be of little interest to the public. What will matter to them is how he leads and how we respond from here.

There have been a lot of comparisons between our leadership contest and the ones the Tories went through in opposition.

That is understandable, but it is important that we draw the right conclusions and don’t fall for the notion that Ed is doomed to be Labour’s Iain Duncan Smith because both had less support from MPs than their rivals.

I don’t pretend to know the mind of the average Conservative Member of Parliament. But, surely, the reason that IDS’s leadership went down in flames had very little to do with the arithmetic that put him in place. Rather, it was the fact he was so palpably hopeless at doing the job once he had been elected.

To compare the two is absurd; Ed is a brilliant, engaging politician who has inspired people through this contest and has the chance to become a great Labour prime minister.

There is, however, a more useful lesson to learn from how Labour came up short in the aftermath of David Cameron’s election as leader of his party.

We should remember that, for all that the media talked up the change message in Cameron’s pitch to be Conservative leader, he only won the crown by feinting right to his activist base.

At the time, Labour researchers rubbed their hands with glee. But early attempts to capitalise on the reassurances that Cameron gave to convince the Tory blue-rinse brigade fell flat because the way he was projecting himself to the public once he got the job was very different.

That is Ed’s great opportunity now. Whatever those on the sidelines may say about him being locked into a particular agenda or style, the truth is that our new leader has the mandate to set out a vision to the country that will make us a credible force at the next election.

It is up to all of us – particularly those of us who backed other candidates – to do whatever we can to ensure that he has the space to do that.

Failing to support him in that way would let down the many families and businesses in our constituencies. They are looking to us to set out a better alternative to what is being imposed on them by the new government.

John Woodcock is Labour & Coop Party member of Parliament for Barrow and Furness

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