by Adrian Prandle
As rival leadership campaign activists settle back into normal routine and the commentariat gets back into the groove of marking PMQs performances, Ed Miliband faces the job of leading Labour.
There are reasons for optimism: encouraging opinion polling, the shadow chancellor’s assured response to the CSR announcement, growing confidence, and no disasters worse than a leaked briefing. The party can be fairly happy with a stable month.
But let’s not forget the scale of the task facing Ed. It is the responsibility of party members to remind him of all aspects of the job with which he has been entrusted. Leadership (of this party, at this moment in time particularly) is more than just PMQs. The diversity of challenges right here, right now doesn’t allow for the eye to be taken off the ball; and our leader must be many things at once. From being a respected, popular and credible figurehead, to being the driver and organiser of a passionate, innovative and exciting campaigning force, to developing policy that can be understood and that will change lives.
At the recent launch of the latest young fabian pamphlet, The New Generation, Douglas Alexander insisted we “don’t underestimate the scale of contribution thinkers, activists and participants can make to our collective future.” It is in uniting these different ways of contributing to the party that Ed can turn Labour fortunes around.
Douglas pointed to the sense of unity in the party, and the leader’s instinct for inclusivity. Looking externally, it is the community inclusivity which I first wrote about after leading the Labour staff network and young fabian delegation to Obama’s campaign, and which in The New Generation, Jessica Studdert argues CLPs should make a top priority.
But internally, it means eradicating divisions, be it the left-right factions at grassroots level, or new Blair-Brown style camps in the PLP. And it means recognising the importance of a diversity of talents and interests in our membership. It will get us nowhere talking of leaflet Labour and looking down on others. We need ideas as much as we need foot soldiers to deliver them. We need a plurality of talents and the leader’s challenge is to develop the ways the party can capitalise upon such talents for the cause.
We must put pressure on Ed to do this. It means organising and campaigning in a different way. It involves an accessible policy-making process that connects politicians, public and party members. It requires every one of us to take responsibility. It needs thinkers, activists, and participants. And it needs an exceptional leader; a really cool cat – a gentleman, scholar, and an acrobat.
Adrian Prandle is vice chair of the young fabians and editor of The New Generation. The young fabians’ fiftieth anniversary pamphlet can be downloaded here.