We need ideas as much as we need footsoldiers to deliver them

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.


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5 Responses to “We need ideas as much as we need footsoldiers to deliver them”

  1. glassfet says:

    encouraging opinion polling,

    The Tories 5 points ahead

    the shadow chancellor’s assured response to the CSR announcement,

    A tired stand-up act with no concrete grasp of the economics.

    growing confidence,

    Among coalition MPs and supporters

    and no disasters worse than a leaked briefing.

    “On every single issue, the Prime Minister is on the side of the voters, and Ed Miliband, when he is visible, is on the wrong side, defending the sectional interest of benefit claimants, rich parents, Labour MPs or students.” http://ind.pn/cI3MEh

    The party can be fairly happy with a stable month.

    The Tory Party. Indeed.

  2. les says:

    For goodness sake! take those rose coloured spectacles off!

  3. ZED45 says:

    This is some of the most self-satisfying drivel I have ever read. Ever. Is it a spoof?

  4. I’m not convinced. I think Labour at the moment need to be far less complacent than this article suggests: for one thing the next election will be under altered boundaries and quite possibly a new electoral system, changing the game completely.

    Secondly, I don’t like the sound of “eradicating internal divisions”. It comes across as a bit sinister, to be honest. While I agree unity is important to the party at the moment, eradicating division can all too easily come across as stifling debate.

  5. Adrian Prandle says:

    Hi Simone,

    I agree with you – it’s a balancing act and stifling debate isn’t going to be the right route at all. But there is a difference between debate and arguments. I think what I was trying to get across was the need for pluralism, not the opposite: to encourage involvement of everyone and to ignore perverse ulterior motives.

    I don’t doubt that this is easier said than done – but that’s not a reason not to try.

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