In the run up to the Progress event on Monday 3rd February, we are publishing a series of pieces what is required for Labour to secure a majority in 2015. Here, Rob Marchant looks at the need for strong leadership in revitalising the party.
Six months on from the heady days of last July, when Miliband swore to reform his party after the failure of Refounding Labour to refound very much, the final proposals are being sent to members of Labour’s NEC this weekend. But has Miliband delivered?
In Chapter 2 of Labour’s manifesto Uncut the main objective we saw for the proposed reforms – in which he had Uncut’s full support – was to help boost his personal popularity with the electorate, by showing he could make a difference to that little company of which he is effectively the CEO: the Labour Party (although, for the record, we also urged him to go further).
Now, rather than judging on the basis of what has so far been leaked, we could simply ask the question: what would be the impact of Miliband not delivering? It’s not hard to predict.
One: in the event of losing a battle already made irrevocably personal, his personal poll ratings would very likely continue to languish. Because people like people who say they’ll do things, then do them. And the perception that unions run Labour Party is a decidedly dangerous one.
Given that reforming their party is really the only realm in which a leader of the opposition can actually do anything, and that this is a one-shot game, that game would be lost. For the record, the last three leaders, Kinnock, Smith and Blair, were felt to have succeeded in this area (kicking out Militant, OMOV and Clause Four respectively). People will draw their own conclusions.
Two: perhaps less obvious, but the risk of another Falkirk-style debacle from an unreformed party organisation would remain high. There could well be further “accidents” before the election, the headlines from which could be very damaging indeed.
Meanwhile the unions – but particularly Unite – emboldened by success, would undoubtedly find ways to consolidate their increased power in the union-party relationship, through MP selections, conference votes, financial squeezes and so on. These two things together could seriously affect the rest of his tenure as leader, and not for the better.
Three: the future legacy to the party leadership in general. The next leader, whenever that transition came, would have been bequeathed the albatross of an unreformed party. That leader would have to pick up the pieces, in a party which by that time would quite probably have little appetite for further reform, and in which unions might well hold more power, rather than less. They would surely need some convincing before trying where Miliband had failed, so the seventeen years Labour has waited for reform could easily become twenty, or twenty-five.
We can but hope that somehow what is finally going to be pulled out of the hat can be spun as a modest success.
Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left