Leadership and party: how Ed can use one to revitalise the other

by Rob Marchant

The next few days will be pretty decisive for the Labour leadership. While this is the kind of refrain you often hear from breathless journalists around conference time, on this occasion it has really a ring of truth about it. He has a project he firmly needs to make work.

Ed Miliband is no longer the new boy: indeed, he is now Labour’s second longest-serving leader of the last two decades. He is consolidated as leader of his party, with no serious challengers for the leadership; and currently presides over – just – a lead for that party in the opinion polls which has held for most of his tenure.

But, over the three years of his leadership, he has been criticised for a number of things: slowness to define party policy; a failure to reform his party; and poor personal leadership ratings.

Our new Labour Uncut book, titled Labour’s manifesto uncut: How to win in 2015 and why, looks principally to give answers to the first of these three, through concrete policy proposals backed up by painstaking polling on what will and will not appeal to the public.

But we also anticipated that Miliband might also, by addressing the second, address the third; that is, a well-executed party reform programme could help revitalise his leadership. We will come to why that is in a moment.

There was a party reform programme, known as Refounding Labour, which came and went in 2011; but it tinkered around the edges. Many of us had given up hope that any reform would come.

However, as fate would have it, during the writing of the book, the Falkirk selection debacle happened, and it was realised that the party could be left untended no longer. Labour announced a radical programme to reform the union link, parliamentary selections and other areas.

The first plank, therefore, of our proposals is simple: Miliband must deliver on these reforms. There can be no rowing back. It is probably obvious by now that his leadership has been staked on their success, but that is no bad thing. Bold initiatives need to mean something; in politics, little worth having is ever easily achieved.

But, while this narrow window is open, we believe he should go further with his reforms, with a second and a third plank.

The second is a tricky, yet vital issue; the elephant in the room which no-one really wants to address. Labour has dabbled in a type of politics in Britain’s inner cities over recent decades: it has developed an unhealthy relationship with some local ethnic communities, which involves sewing up voting blocks.

As Demos’ David Goodhart observed, you could see the results in the Bradford West by-election, where local residents were so fed up with Labour taking their votes for granted, they protested and ended up with the, well, “colourful” George Galloway as their MP.

But Labour were the principal, yet unwitting architects of Galloway’s win. We argue that Miliband should comprehensively reject identity politics and determine how such local parties can be rebuilt.

The third area is practical: Labour must reach out to all sections of modern British society, where its membership is currently slanted towards public, voluntary and unionised private sector employees. The slogan of “One Nation Labour” should mean just that: all welcome here.

Now, back to that vital question: why should people care about such a dull subject as the internal workings of a political party? Well, we don’t expect the public to jump up and down in excitement. They don’t need to. But Labour under Miliband needs a concrete achievement under its belt. So much of opposition is necessarily hot air, for the simple reason that you are not empowered to actually do anything.

Opposition: clue’s in the name. As the book says:

“…changing your party shows your ability to do what you say you’re going to: it is about running something. It is not just your temporary springboard to get you into government. It is the little company of which you are, effectively, the CEO.”

So, Ed, we invite you to ignore the media, the policy wonks, the vested interests on both right and left which tell you not to reform your party.

This could be the success which helps propel you to No. 10, as it did Tony Blair with Clause Four. Alternatively, in the worst case scenario, it is an act of great practical value, not to mention some nobility, to bequeath your successor a party in a much better state than that in which you found it.

Our polling backs you up all the way, and also has some fascinating insights on everything from what our supporters think about All Women Shortlists to what union members think about their role in the party.

The message: just do it. And, while you’re at it, do a bit more, please.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left. ‘Labour’s manifesto uncut: How to win in 2015 and why’ will be launched at Labour conference at the PragRad fringe on Monday September 23

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12 Responses to “Leadership and party: how Ed can use one to revitalise the other”

  1. bob says:

    Until Miliband confronts the sickness that still remains today at the heart of the Labour Party and exposes all those who were complicit with Brown and McBride to the daylight of truth, this party will be a running sore in the body politic of this country. Many of the present front bench are if not complicit, were aware and in agreement of the actions of McBride during that period. They were more interested in knifing each other in the back than running the country, trying to stay on the political ‘gravy train’.

    Brown and Blair have much to repent for their actions over thirteen years of at times gross misrule, the war in Iraq with that the underfunding of the troops fighting in that war, mass immigration without control, remember Gillian Duffy and ‘British jobs for British’ people, the forces of hell unleashed at Alister Darling for telling something approaching the truth over the financial crisis and lastly the very suspicious death of Dr David Kelly, driven to ‘suicide’.

    Miliband and your so called shadow cabinet unless you are ‘honest’ which I doubt you can be, you will never be elected to high office again.

  2. steve says:

    Unfortunately we’ll be living with Blair and Brown’s mistakes for decades – Blair in particular has left an indelible stain on the lives of many.

    The best Labour can do is have a new broom to sweep out the New Labour rubbish.

  3. bob says:

    steve says: Whilst Progress lives, that isn’t going to happen. the Labour Party is riven by factionalism or in the words of China under Mao, Splitists and entryists.

    Until the party has a look at itself it will never be fit for government in the eyes of the electorate, this is only reminiscent of the fight between Kinnock and Militant or Healy and Callaghan in the 70s against the unions and their political masters.

    Blair and Brown have much to answer for, in another age they would have been in the Tower of London on a charge of Treason!!

  4. bob says:

    steve says:
    September 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Unfortunately we’ll be living with Blair and Brown’s mistakes for decades – Blair in particular has left an indelible stain on the lives of many.

    The best Labour can do is have a new broom to sweep out the New Labour rubbish.

    I did mean to add Steve’s comment at the start of my post.

  5. John p Reid says says:

    What has progress got to do with entryist,or Mcbride

  6. bob says:

    John p Reid says says:
    September 22, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    What has progress got to do with entryist,or Mcbride.

    Progress are an entryist organisation as was Militant, both are tarred with the same brush, of being organisations within organisations. McBride like Campbell served their political masters and their acolytes therefore have acted against good state governance and in party political interest rather than for the good of the electorate. These people are a stain on the political well-being of the country and should be purged from any political party, and I do include people like Crosby in this.

  7. Madasafish says:

    I see a Labour Party which supports:
    welfare claimants
    and state employees.
    Run by bunch of millionaires and unelected union leaders in the background funding them.

    Change a few names, and they appear identical to the Tories..

    And worse still, they are not prepared to trust the electorate with a decision about the EU.

    It would be unkind but appropriate to suggest “stuck in the early 20th century” is an appropriate description.

  8. steve says:

    Interesting developments in Hastings town centre: Ed Miliband declares he is “bringing back socialism.”

    Does this mean you’ll be resigning from the Labour Party, Rob?


  9. Robin Thorpe says:

    Its a shame that the Blair/Brown debacle still casts a shadow over the party. There is much of merit in this article, not least “We argue that Miliband should comprehensively reject identity politics and determine how such local parties can be rebuilt.”

    Gloria De Piero says something similar in her article in the Guardian today http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/23/labour-party-working-people-involved?CMP=twt_gu
    As does Neal Lawson http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/23/labour-one-nation-mantra-clapped-out-party?CMP=twt_gu although Neal is a bit more curmudgeonly in his critique.

    It a shame it didn’t happen sooner really, but the PLP seem to be pulling their socks up. I think there is some hope for 2015; you never know Labour may even get a majority.

  10. John p Reid says:

    Bob, Progress didnt have affiliates, try to use block votes at branch meetings by getting members in to influence things, it has t it’s own branches, unlike the Fabians it doesn’t have an ability to vote on things, it certainly didnt have councils like militant did in Liverpool, and as For Mcbride he may or not have been like Campbell ,but again othng like Progress

  11. bob says:

    John p Reid:

    I lived through the Militant era in cahoots with Branch 5 of the TGWU led by Ian Lowes in Liverpool and would have strung them all up along Castle Street leading to the Town Hall and how Kinnock used Jane Kennedy and Peter Kilfoyle to kill them off. Even the local radio stations gave out notification that Tyranasaurus Binwaggonus had been sighted they were that rare usually because they were on strike or just not doing their jobs. One man even chased the bin wagon using a petrol driven chainsaw he was that angry with them. One so-called socialist in the form of Hatton is now a property developer, I hope Milibands plans to take his property off him works, but like a good socialist his assets are off shore in i believe Cyprus.

    Maybe what we lived under in the 1980s would happen again now McClusky has control of Miliband if he elected in 2015. Miliband will be like John Hamilton was in Liverpool, a glove puppet with his hand up his ba*****e controlling his mouth. What did happen in Falkirk.

    As for Progress, you don’t need votes if you have money as in politics money speaks, remember labour being given a ‘bernie’ and ‘cash for honours’. The only reason Blair was never interviewed under caution was because he threatened the nuclear option of resignation and Yates and the Yard backed off. How many millions has in the past Lord Sainsbury donated to the Labour Party. Progress does not need money, it has influence with the socialist ‘old boys’ network and Common Purpose.

    Labour Party just keep their corruption covered up, at least with Cameron et al they don’t need too be corrupt. Remember with socialism it’s money that brings the downfall with the Conservatives it’s usually sex.

  12. bob says:

    Oh, forgot to add, Liverpool has only just paid off the loans to the Zurich bankers that the b*****ds took out in the 80s as they were hell bent on taking on Margaret Thatcher. Like Ted Knight in Lambeth, they LOST.

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