Posts Tagged ‘Harold Macmillan’

Last week saw the beginning of a journey: from Red Ed to one nation prime minister

28/03/2011, 03:00:40 PM

by Michael Dugher

Political strategy, like Robert Burns’ best laid schemes of mice and men, can “oft go awry”. The thing that really tests prime ministers, governments and oppositions too is what Harold Macmillan once famously called “events”. A week ago, Ed Miliband convened a special meeting of the Parliamentary Labour party (PLP) to discuss that day’s vote on support for military action in Libya. Despite the Conservative and right-wing media’s ongoing efforts to caricature him as “Red Ed”, a prisoner of the left-wing trade unions, he spoke very firmly in favour of military action arguing that, despite the huge reservations and concerns that many in the PLP held, Labour and Britain must support the will of the international community as spelled out in the UN security council resolution. What is more, he carried the meeting. And he managed to unite MPs as diverse in their ideological perspective as Michael Meacher and John Spellar – a remarkable (if not unprecedented) achievement.

At the PLP meeting, Labour’s former shadow foreign secretary, Gerald Kaufman, warned Labour MPs of the need to get the party’s response to the Libya crisis right. No two set of international circumstances are the same. But as a member of the shadow cabinet at the time, Kaufman said that Libya was as big a political test for Labour as the Falklands had been in the early 1980s.  He reminded colleagues – many barely out of nappies at the time – that Labour’s response to the Falklands was “all over the shop”.  He said Labour put itself on the wrong side of the argument with the public, looked unpatriotic, and even allowed the Conservative government to get away with some disastrous defence decisions in the run up to the conflict. Kaufman argued that Libya was not the Falklands, but that there were lessons for Labour. He was right. (more…)

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