There were two winners of the leadership contest: both the Eds. We are a meritocratic party and these two merited their respective victories – they ran the best campaigns and both achieved the best outcomes that their teams could reasonably have expected.
More importantly, they were also best in that they connected better by recognising the dual essences of what the party requires at this time: authenticity and renewal.
Authenticity because weaved into the DNA of both these campaigns was an understanding of the need, and a willingness, to push out of the constraints of the New Labour campaign doctrine that served us so well for the last decade: they were prepared to say things that the Daily Mail and the Murdia (Murdoch media) wouldn’t like but that the party has been subconsciously pleading for.
This was writ large in the new leader’s conference speech on Tuesday.
Renewal because ‘renewal’ is today’s ‘change’. And this is the primary reason why the two Eds’ campaigns acheived their goals. They understood that while power is the ultimate goal, it is better secured if it comes on the heels of renewal. David Miliband is undeniably a class act and someone who in all likelihood would have led us to power. But, for me, his campaign was too heavily weighted on that half of the equation…the “I can beat Cameron tomorrow test.” Whereas the willingness to ask searching questions about the validity of the new labour credo in a post-banking crisis era, as Ed miliband did, or to offer a genuinely alternative economic recovery plan, like Ed balls did, shows a real appreciation for the whole equation. In the right order.
The type of power which allows legacy-level change only comes when you start from the beginning. Through a process of renewal comes coherence and energy. It is what will make this current government look incoherent and stale come 2015.
Beating Cameron tomorrow was not the right mantra. Renewing the party so that it can win and win long was. I think this is what Ed Miliband meant by the danger of the New Labour comfort zone. Not that it didn’t deliver great achievements, but that in its very own spirit, it needed to be reexamined from first principles and made fit for purpose again.
I find myself genuinely excited about the potential of our front bench and party with not red Ed but renewal Ed at the helm.
James O’Keefe is a political consultant.