Liverpool must back Rodgers and Labour must back Miliband

by Jonathan Todd

I’ve supported Liverpool FC since the 1986 FA Cup final, the first match I saw on TV. Because red was the colour for my six year old self. Not because, or so I’ve told myself, Liverpool won. My Dad probably also encouraged me, having debarred me from wearing the Manchester United shirt that my Mum had previously bought for me, and before long we were on the M6 to Anfield from Cumbria.

My parents did less to bring me to politics. They are no more interested than the average voter. I choose the political team in red for myself. I was willing Labour on from a young age. Labour and Liverpool have expended much of my emotional and mental energy.

Now both are in a hole. Some say that Ed Miliband should be sacked. Others that Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, should be. While Labour and Liverpool are struggling to meet expectations, I am not among either of these groups.

When I said at the start of this football season that I’d be pleased with Liverpool being in the Champions League after Christmas and in the competition next season, this was relatively low on ambition by the standards of fans whose expectations had been raised by nearly winning the league. These ambitions today are definitely optimistic.

At the start of last year, when Uncut was looking ahead to how Labour might approach another hung parliament, Labourites felt this lacking ambition. Last week, Conor Pope, the Labour List writer, tweeted the results of a survey of party members and professed amazement that anyone envisages a Labour majority. I have transitioned from being a relative pessimist about Liverpool’s prospects for this season and Labour’s chances at the general election to being a mild optimist.

It’s frustrating that Liverpool’s summer signings have not had the impact of Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbergas at Chelsea but the stumbling form of Arsenal, Manchester United and Spurs just about leaves open the possibility of Liverpool finishing in the top four and again qualifying for the Champions League, a competition that they will retain interest in into the second half of this season with wins against teams, FC Basel and Ludo Razgd, that they were widely expected to defeat when the draw was made.

Labour has failed to seize the opportunities of this parliament as comprehensively as Liverpool seems to have failed to grasp the opportunities of the summer transfer window. Nonetheless, transition from a three party politics to a six or more party politics makes this an unpredictable general election. If Liverpool fans can dare to dream of beating the giants of FC Basel and Ludo Razgd, Labour can hope that the Conservatives adapt less well to this changed context. This context combined with the vagaries of our electoral system mean that Labour might be the largest party without increasing our vote share from the 2010 general election, our second worst performance in 80 years.

Squeezing through the Champions League group stages and into government on an unprecedentedly low share of the vote would not be the greatest achievements in the history of Liverpool or Labour. But they are worth putting aside past differences, working together, and fighting for. Rafa Benitez, a Spaniard who once successfully managed Liverpool and who now coaches in Italy while his family remain in their Merseyside home, and Alan Johnson, a politician of sound judgment, easy charm and authenticity, pose as princes across the water. But Rodgers was winning manager of the year awards just months ago and Miliband was widely then presumed a prime minister in waiting. They haven’t suddenly lost their gifts and deserve support in returning them to prominence.

The process for replacing Rodgers would be smoother than that for Miliband. That said, to do so would be to jettison the long-term planning that Rodgers has applied to coaching, youth setup and transfers. While Rodgers must hope for similar backing to that which once saw Alex Ferguson follow up a second place league finish at Manchester United with an eleventh place finish before going on to be the dominant manager of the past quarter century, he could be swiftly removed. Attempts to do similar to Miliband, however, are likely to result only in making him appear weak and our party divided.

Notwithstanding a recent insistence in the face of significant evidence to the contrary that Mario Balotelli can prosper as a lone striker, Rodgers has more consistently displayed a sense of reacting to the tactical calls that I scream at the television than any other manager. It’s reassuring having someone in charge that appears to think as I do. I can’t pretend I’ve always felt this about Miliband.

But maximising Miliband’s strengths and minimising his weaknesses is Labour’s least bad strategy. Johnson – as well as Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna – should be integral to this. They speak in different ways to different parts of the country. They should focus on doing so, not on furthering any leadership ambitions they may have.

Neither Rodgers nor Miliband should retreat to boot rooms or bunkers. Liverpool fans should keep singing for Rodgers, Labour activists door knocking for Miliband; Liverpool players running for Rodgers, Labour MPs campaigning for Miiband. At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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7 Responses to “Liverpool must back Rodgers and Labour must back Miliband”

  1. Ex labour says:

    To keep with the football analogy.

    Suarez (not Rodgers) lifted Liverpool to greater things. He was a leader on the field with passion, pace, skill and strength, always taking the fight to the opposition and leading by example. Whilst Labour under the leadership of passionless, pointless and useless Siliband are sinking lower. Suarez has left and Liverpool fall from their lofty position, which says everything. Perhaps the lesson is that Siliband should go and watch the Labour party rise under new leadership ?

  2. swatantra says:

    On the otherhand, a new bloke at the top with restore confidence pride and morale.

  3. sandy says:

    As a football fan you will recognise that Miliband is,essentially,playing for a draw.

    You will also know how that usually turns out.

  4. Dave says:

    Poor poor article. Hang on did a comment just state that the serial biter, diver, scraping studs down calves racist leads by example? If that’s what you all are following the downward spiral cannot come quick enough

  5. Dave says:

    Why have you removed my comment? Are you so insecure as to only have comments agreeing with your article? Grow up

  6. Landless Peasant says:

    Footballers and Politicians are equally irrelevant to our struggle.

  7. Landless Peasant says:

    Who can afford a ticket to see a football match? Most of us don’t even have any food! People are dying in their thousands. It’s dog-eat-dog out there in Cameron’s Dickensian Britain.

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