Archive for September, 2010

Conference sketch, by Siôn Simon

28/09/2010, 05:11:53 PM

A glance at Ed Milband reveals his origins. He is dark. Not just his glossy, black hair, but his eyes. And not just the brows or the glinting coals at the centre. The sockets themselves are subfusc.

His beard is light. In some ways he looks girlish. But his full, fleshy lips have a masculine sensuousness. And they are dark.

In short, he is Italian. His original name was Milibandini. His ties are thinner, too, than British ties. But this is also because he is from a New Generation. Only Mr Bradshaw’s ties are thinner than Sr Miliband’s.

Neil Kinnock does not look like this. He is red and freckled. Mr Kinnock is Sr Miliband’s friend. (more…)

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Kill Red Ed. Introduce Real Ed, says Jonathan Todd

28/09/2010, 01:30:11 PM

This afternoon Ed Miliband will introduce himself and reintroduce our party to a country unfamiliar with him and wary of us. The country needs to get to know Real Ed before Red Ed compounds the hostility towards us. This introduction and reintroduction should be made with the narrative which he intends to articulate at the next general election in mind. The first steps he takes as party leader could determine whether or not this journey ends in Downing Street.

A useful political narrative should have three parts: an explanation of where we are; a vision of where we want to get to; and a plan for realising the vision. David Cameron’s general election narrative is predictable. He will describe a country recovered from Labour excess; festooned with the tiny platoons of the Big Society and the ringing tills of prosperity. Rolling back the state, he will argue, took us this far and remains imperative to taking us further into Cameron’s sunny uplands. Hence his commitments to have people keep more of their own money through reduced taxation and his warnings, potentially echoed by almost all of the media, of Labour’s high taxes and big government.

Ed needs to do more than attack this logic. He also needs to promulgate his own contrasting narrative. For his story to have traction he has to confront various realities this afternoon: preparing our movement for the challenges ahead and communicating to the country that the party is prepared to take the steps necessary to meet these challenges.


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Conference diary III: per non cambiare nulla…

28/09/2010, 11:18:12 AM

As ancient as Rome, as implacable as Sicily, is Lampedusa’s iron law of politics: “bisogna cambiare tutto per non cambiare nulla (everything must change, so that nothing changes) ”.

And so it was last night for two staffers overheard in the Midland bar:

“You’ll never guess who’s doing the Sue Nye job, this week at least”?

“No. Who”?

“Go on, guess”.

“I don’t know. Who?”

“Sue Nye”.

“Of course. Should have known.”

(Sue Nye has worked for Labour leaders since Callaghan. She was gatekeeper to Neil Kinnock and then to Gordon Brown from before the treasury till the last days in Downing Street. She is married to Gavyn Davies, the Goldman Sachs partner who also chaired the BBC).

Other at least interim team Ed Miliband staffers include Jonathan Ashworth (Brown, Harman), Rachel Kinnock (Blair, Brown, Team EM) and Anna Yearley (PLP, Brown, Team EM).

* * * (more…)

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Kevin Meagher looks at the new leader’s in-tray

28/09/2010, 09:23:37 AM

THIS week, of all weeks, Ed Miliband will not find himself short of advice. Whatever his critics, myself among them, have said about his campaign, he has executed his strategy expertly. Quite simply, he intuitively understood the centre of gravity in the modern Labour party far better than any of the other candidates.

His appeal to the Guardian-reading, soft left, public-sector urbanites who comprise so much of the party’s grassroots, was perfectly pitched. These are principled, decent people who can be swayed by pragmatic arguments, as they were (initially) by Tony Blair; but ultimately they retain their original, earnestly held views. They saw many of their cherished beliefs battered and bruised during Labour’s years in office and were grateful to have a candidate to vote for in this contest who actually chimed with how they see the world.

The trouble is that their views are not necessarily the views of the broader electorate. Or, indeed, our lost Labour voters. Both Gordon Brown’s former pollster, David Muir and the Open Left team at Demos have made this point in recent days.

So the balance between idealism and hard-nosed electoral reality needs to be better calibrated. And our new leader will not have long to do so. He has to adapt to a fast-changing political landscape with firmness and quickness or risk being on the back foot from the off. To his right-wing media critics he is already “Red Ed” – a rollback to Labour’s Jurassic period.  I am sure we can expect some subtle but firm rebranding in this afternoon’s speech.


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Tuesday News Review

28/09/2010, 08:24:32 AM

David’s future

David Miliband was given a hero’s welcome yesterday – as he kept the party sweating about his future. The defeated Labour leadership contender received a prolonged standing ovation as he addressed conference for perhaps the last time. David has still not told his younger brother Ed, who narrowly beat him to the top job, if he will serve in his team to fight the ConDems. One close ally said he was agonising about his future – less than 48 hours ahead of tomorrow evening’s deadline for standing in the shadow cabinet elections. The deciding factor could be the effect on his wife, who was in “floods of tears” yesterday at the way her husband had been treated by the party. – The Mirror

David Miliband pulled out of a series of fringe events at Labour’s conference on Monday night after a bruising 48 hours that fed speculation that he was poised to quit frontline politics rather than serve in his younger brother’s shadow cabinet. The guessing game over David Miliband’s future dominated a day in which he gave his party a glimpse of what could have been – with a concession speech that turned into a bravura display of political theatre. – The FT

Alistair Darling urged David Miliband to remain in frontline politics last night, saying he still had a “huge” contribution to make to the Labour Party. The outgoing shadow chancellor disclosed that he had met Mr Miliband over a drink since he was beaten to the Labour leadership by younger brother Ed at the weekend. Mr Darling declined to say who he was backing to take over as shadow chancellor, but lavished praise on David Miliband. “I hope David remains heavily engaged in the Labour Party in whatever way he thinks appropriate and whatever way Ed thinks appropriate,” he told a conference fringe event. “He’s still young and he has a huge amount to give.” – The Press & Journal


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David Prescott reports from David Miliband’s big speech

27/09/2010, 03:35:45 PM

It was like seeing a former girlfriend you’d taken for granted and finally parted from. Only to realise that you loved her after all.

Problem was, she’d moved on.

I predicted the other day that David could read the Manchester Yellow Pages and bring the house down.

But boy did he do his homework, and the media missed out on the big message.

It was the best conference speech since Blair’s inaugural address in 1994. (more…)

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Beware of Osborne’s traps on the economy, says Jonathan Todd

27/09/2010, 02:00:54 PM

Ostensibly, Manchester hasn’t greatly changed since Labour conference was last here. The buildings are all in the same place. The distinctive cool and charm remains. The corned beef hash at Sam’s Chop House still does the job.

Yet the British economy suffered a recession which shrank it by 6 percent in the intervening period. This is officially more than half way to a depression and a very big deal. Labour at the general election lost the trust of the people to steer the recovery from this. We won’t return to government unless we again become recognised as the party of economic competence.

The leadership election hasn’t flushed out a fully formed economic offer. Perhaps it was unrealistic to imagine that it could. However, some consensuses emerged. We want tax to play a bigger role in deficit reduction than does the government. But this risks the perception that we are a party of high tax, which is electorally arid terrain. And, while Danny Alexander may have suggested that this won’t happen, it would create a marked contrast between ourselves and the government if they do offer tax cuts in the second half of this parliament, upon which the Tories seem likely to insist.

Another consensus to develop during the leadership contest is that we want deficit reduction to begin later, proceed less aggressively and be more sensitive to GDP growth than does the government. But this risks the view that the party which built up the deficit in government lacks a serious plan for correcting it. That we are, in other words, reckless economic vandals. This is slightly hyperbolic, but isn’t so far removed from how many voters, whose support we need to form a government, see us. Consider, as an illustration of this, that 47 percent of voters in the south of England, according to new research by You Gov and Policy Network, thought that the last government’s spending had been “largely wasted”.


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Conference diary II: Sunday night and Monday morning

27/09/2010, 11:00:04 AM

As Ed Miliband prepares for the speech of his life tomorrow, Uncut understands that he has  received support from a surprising quarter. Team Ed has asked for – and been granted – a copy of the speech David had prepared in the event of his own victory. Uncut assumes that, as we write, Ed’s wordsmiths are beavering away, frantically translating David’s words into fluent human.

Good luck guys. And be grateful you didn’t just beat John Prescott.

* * *

Uncut bows to none in our admiration for that legendary storm-trooper of spin, Charlie Wheelan. But we understand that Charlie’s claim to have personally switched half a dozen MPs to Ed Miliband in the final days of the campaign may be something of a smoke screen. Uncut has it on good authority that it was not Charlie, but Gordon Brown himself, who was hitting the phones for Ed in the last fortnight of polling. Having kept a dignified distance from proceedings, the interventions of Tony Bair and Peter Mandelson are believed to been the spur Gordon needed to enter the fray.

* * *

Ed Miliband leader. Ed Balls shadow chancellor. Nick Brown Chief Whip. Will reports of the death of the Brownites turn out to have been exaggerated?

* * *

While we at Unuct retain our affection for Charlie, the same cannot be said of some of his brothers in the movement. Two senior trade unions officials we spoke to yesterday were slightly miffed at the suggestion that CW single-handedly won it for their man.

“What’s Charlie doing”? asked one. “He’s out of control”.

“You know what he’s doing”, replied the other: “He’s got a book to plug”.

Too true. And Uncut expects a corker.

* * *

As Ed Miliband continues his victory tour, the intense figure of Mike Joslin can be seen ploughing the road as point man. Uncut has two words of advice for this intrepid staffer: slow down. You’ll get there. And smile. You’re doing a great job, and you’ve won. Enjoy it.

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

27/09/2010, 09:55:23 AM

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. (more…)

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Monday News Review

27/09/2010, 07:56:19 AM

Ed’s first move

So it’s all over, is it? Labour has lurched to the Left, handing the next election to David Cameron. The selection of “Red Ed” Miliband will doubtless have been toasted in illicit champagne by Conservatives on Saturday night. For the Tories, brother Ed is an easier opponent than David, and his victory by machine politics – Charlie Whelan having persuaded six union-backed MPs to switch their second preferences – supports the idea that Ed owes his position to the bruisers. But, in the sober light of Monday morning, the Conservatives should file away their excitement under C for Complacency. For it would be a big mistake to underestimate the new Labour leader. For a start, he is no fool. Like his brother, Ed is intelligent and politically astute. He is hardly going to join a picket line against Coalition cuts. If anything, he knows that he now has to sound tougher on the unions than David would have done. – The Independent

Ed Miliband has sought to convince voters he is not a puppet of the trade union barons, who helped secure him the Labour crown, by insisting: “I am my own man.” He branded the label “Red Ed” as “tiresome rubbish” yesterday and made clear there would be no lurch to the Left under his leadership, declaring: “I am for the centre ground of politics.” – The Herald

Even Ed Miliband’s triumphant supporters will feel nervous awaiting his first speech as Labour leader. Having been selected in the controlled party show room, Tuesday’s appearance will start to tell us how he will perform on the open road of public opinion. A welter of post-victory punditry is pulling him in many directions; he must defend Labour’s record but explain what went wrong; land a blow on the coalition but appeal to disaffected Liberal Democrats; and rally the troops while appealing to the nation. To top it all he must display authority, show humanity, speak to the heartlands and woo middle England. – The FT

MPs and constituency members backing David, union members handing him the crown, is a handicap. The unions whirred into action to Stop David not Get Ed. And the relationship will be fraught – but trade unionists have a right to be heard. The block vote disappeared in 1993 and it was individual workers who voted for Ed. A leader championing fairness and social justice should promise better rights at work, job security and a living wage. To run away from employees because of flak over union support would be the worst of all worlds. Predictions that Labour will lose the 2015 election are silly. Anything could happen. Labour expects Ed to prove his doubters wrong. And will be merciless if he doesn’t. – The Mirror


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