Ed saddles up the gift horse

by Rob Marchant

It is difficult to be anything less than delighted at Ed Miliband’s announcement on Monday that he will call a special conference next Spring to consider the findings of the Collins review.

With this move, he has simultaneously done several things: he has, critically, kept the political momentum going on the project which has now been irreversibly framed as the acid test of his leadership; he has surprised his critics by his audacious speed of action, now looking to deliver it in time for the election; he has pacified the moaners by increasing the level of democratic consultation; and, perhaps most importantly of all, largely cloned a successful model for such changes – that of clause four in 1995 – to achieve all this.

In addition, the selection of former Millbank staffer and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, who was closely involved in the clause four campaign, for the campaign team is an inspired choice; and that is because he also understands both the party grassroots and the vital importance of the objective.

Despite the usual theories that the use of this model that is proof positive of a Blairite conspiracy to “kidnap” Miliband, it is blindingly obvious that he has not embarked on a policy suite to match.

But he is at least adopting political tactics which can work.

A mere two weeks ago, Miliband was unexpectedly presented with a gift horse which might just put his leadership back on track, not to mention save his party in the long term.

Rightly, without stopping to inspect the state of its teeth, he saddled up and got on.

And it is suddenly as if the hitherto perennially-dithering Miliband has finally realised the merits of proactivity and speed: that a fast-moving racehorse of a campaign in the long run-up to an election is the only way he can possibly build the necessary momentum to win it.

There is but one doubt: is it really just that? Has the sudden speed and momentum been built, as it should be, because of the realisation that that is what is required in politics to make things happen and take people with you?

Or is it because the leadership fears more bad news from Falkirk, the unions or party selections and is now riding like the wind as quickly as possibly away from the old, machine politics of the ancien regime before it becomes collateral damage from another blast?

It may be one, or the other, or a bit of both. What is clear is that it may well have been very hasty to draw a line under Falkirk or describe it as a “one-off”; and that is before we even consider the unknowns of the evolution of union relationships, a tricky party conference and other party selections between now and next spring.

In the meantime, let’s not look that gift horse in the mouth just yet.

It’s pretty much all we’ve got.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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12 Responses to “Ed saddles up the gift horse”

  1. John Reid says:

    Ouch,being a potential Govenrment in waiting ,would have been a good idea,

  2. swatantra says:

    Its good to get back to Spring Conferences again!
    Good to also see EdM come out of hibernation, saddle up and … yipee kyeah … and all that.
    Labour is back in business.

  3. steve says:

    “It’s pretty much all we’ve got.”

    The words of a down-at-heel debutante who, on the eve of her great moment, looks in the wardrobe to find only the moth-eaten remnants of a dress worn by her great-grandmother.

    Forget the sad-eyed resignation – if this is the best Labour can manage then you may as well throw in the towel and go dig canals in the sands of the Sahara.

  4. Nick says:

    Falkirk is one of many. That’s the problem.

    The Labour will have a funding problem. In reality, it will be bankrupt. The Coop can’t bail it out, since its likely to have to call its loans.

    That’s what comes from running large debts. You aren’t in control any more. Works for Labour. Works for the state too.

  5. paul barker says:

    One thing is certain, the gift horse is riding off with a big chunk of Labour funding in its saddlebags. Now a Parliamentary deal on Party funding would at least mean cuts in Tory funding as well but that will mean swallowing your pride & making an alliance with The Libdems. Big cuts in Election spending limits are available if you are willing to make common cause with rival Parties, its up to you.

  6. Leon Spence says:

    The onus now is for party members to become strong advocates of Ed’s proposed reforms.

    We have to speak up for increased transparency and more open democracy in our membership and selection processes.

    Voters don’t like, what they perceive to be, grubby links with interest groups. Labour now has an opportunity to lead the way and leave the Conservatives and the like of Crosby to be judged by the electorate.

  7. bob says:

    If you have government funding of political parties, then you have to fund extreme parties like the SWP and CPGB on one side and the EDL and BNP on the other, in fact the BNP and EDL have elected politicians within local councils and in the EU, just not in Westminster, so could you refuse to fund them.

    Is Sainsbury a lobbying person for the right of the Labour Party as people would perceive Unite as to the left. Remember many people only have union membership for the benefit (somewhat dubious in my experience) of representation and insurance and for NO OTHER reason, they are not interested in or even despise politicians of all strip.

    The Ashcroft report stated that some 60% of UNITE members read the Daily Mail and Telegraph so revealing their political leanings. Whilst it maybe a small pool of respondents it could be very indicative.

  8. Clr Ralph baldwin says:


    They won’t, it was an empty speech and I am now giving the Press the truth of the situation.

    ironic that i know more about what happens in Labour HQ than you all and I am a Tory now…that’ll be the “transparency” lol. Friends in Westminster 🙂

  9. Danny says:

    You think you know more about what happens in Labour HQ, Councillor.

    Sadly, it is all to evident from your posts on here that there is a huge chasm between what you think and what is in fact reality.

  10. John Reid says:

    Bob, the EDL don’t have politicians, your other 2 paparagrpqhs are spot on though,

  11. bob says:

    John Reid: so the former mayor of Doncaster, Ed Milibands constituency was a mirage or figment of my imagination?

  12. Mike Homfray says:

    The unions will still be able to give to Labour. Only an agreement from the Conservatives of a strict limit on individual donations will change this. No sign of that yet. It may have to come after the next election

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