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