The boy Miliband done good

by Rob Marchant

In a sense, nothing changed over the weekend: there was virtually no doubt that, once a proposal of such import was made “privately” to the NEC – and therefore instantly leaked to the whole world – that ducks were already in a neat row and nods had already been duly given. In dark, smoke-filled rooms, of course (it wouldn’t be the same without them).

But the securing of the party’s reform package – namely, the change from bulk to individual relationships with the party for union members, fair and representative leadership elections and a primary for London – was undoubtedly a great thing.

Finally – finally – Miliband has left his mark indelibly on his party. Even should he turn out next year to have been a mere one-term leader, the changes he has made will have an extremely long-lasting impact (assuming, that is, that such things cannot be undone later: either owing to an untimely 2015 leadership election, as noted here; or the use of the NEC veto clause on the London primary, as Progress’ Robert Philpot observantly pointed out last week).

There are things missing from the final report: NEC and conference votes remain unreformed. Neither, as blogger Ben Cobley noted, did the party take the opportunity to address its pathological obsession with identity politics, which has left to some nasty stitch-ups in the past, and which may yet be the undoing of the party before long (read this piece by Uncut’s Kevin Meagher if you want to understand why).

It is also clear that, during the five years while it is being phased in, the party will still be vulnerable to pressure from one-off union donations, although as of yesterday it seems the odd large donor may be willing to step in to counterbalance that effect.

However, having written a long essay last summer – in Chapter 2 of Labour Uncut’s alternative manifesto – on why it was overridingly important that Miliband reformed his party, I cannot help but be pleased. This will likely not touch the opinion polls; but leaders sometimes need to do things because they are simply necessary and right.

So, after a brief, euphoric interlude, back to reality.

Let’s not forget that, just before the announcement of the party reforms, there were some pretty disastrous announcements on party policy; the dotty “let’s create a new bank, right here in the barn” initiative, and – most importantly – the retention of the 50p tax rate. Or – not policy, but bonkers nonetheless – Andy Sawford’s campaign against free coffee at Waitrose.

The public will still remember these, and they may count a lot more as the calendar advances towards next May. Historical precedent indicates that our modest poll lead, untended, is likely to wither away to nothing by then and Miliband still has awful leadership ratings.

There is work to do.

But, having achieved the most far-reaching reforms in decades, no-one will now be able to say Miliband can’t manage his party.

With that success under his belt, he has now a short window to prove something vital, yet thus far elusive: that he can manage the country.

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

Tags: , , , , ,

10 Responses to “The boy Miliband done good”

  1. swatantra says:

    A 5 year phase in is a bit much; 2 years would have done it.
    The Unions were easy; Ed has now the more difficult task of winning over the electorate. Whether he does or not, he will have earned himself a footnote in Labour History.

  2. bob says:

    Or infamy if he as reported, may take Blair’s blood-money as a subtitute.

  3. Matthew Blott says:

    I share many of the criticisms voice at Labour Uncut regarding Miliband’s leadership but do you really think our polling would be improved by retaining the Tories’ tax cut for those earning over 150 grand?

  4. bob says:

    You mean the tax that was only implemented for the last 10 weeks of the last Labour ‘government’ It is the same rate as it was for 13 years and X weeks of the Blair/Brown tenure. Hypocrisy or what !!!

  5. bob says:

    We have the same top tax rate as we did for the period of the last Labour Government from 1997 to 2010. The tax rate was only raised for the last 10 weeks under Brown. Hypocrisy of the first order I’m afraid Matthew.

  6. BenM says:

    The 50p tax rate is highly popular.

    The Blairites got tax horribly wrong.

  7. bob says:

    Ben M: evidence please.

  8. robert henry says:

    I sometimes despair of you Blairites. As john rentoul intones, mili is useless and should go more to the right.
    You dont seem to have noticed that the ‘ country ‘
    has moved left !
    I speak as a tory who will be voting Labour
    for the 1st time. I have been cheated by banks
    and gas co’s and am deperate for them to be sorted.
    Mili is not everyone’s cup of tea but you
    were all laughing at him not so long ago but
    he has played a blinder and even Hodges has
    stopped the daily criticism.
    try please to get him elected!!

  9. BenM says:


    “In an announcement to the Fabian Society conference on Saturday the shadow chancellor Ed Balls declared it would be Labour policy to increase the top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 to 50p, up from its current level of 45p.

    Now a YouGov survey for The Times finds that 61% support the increase while only a quarter (26%) oppose.”

Leave a Reply