It’s strange to think that while i thought that Ed Miliband would win, i was still a little surprised when I heard the news coming away from St Mirren’s loss to Inverness Caley Thistle at the weekend. I'm still not sure that I can see him as leadership material, but he has 4 and a half years to grow into the role of prospective Prime Minister. He has considerably shorter time to grow into the role of Labour leader. Think more like October 20th.
To be honest, none of the five really appealed to me. In one respect or another, with the exception of Dianne Abbott, they all represented facets of the New Labour project. Ed probably won because he learned the Brown trick of couching New Labour policies in Old Labour language. That and the Unions were actively campaigning for him. It is this which has raised the ire of the right wing press, funnily enough ignoring Cameron’s backers, which include two companies who specialise in currency speculation, and Ginsters foods.
Ed Milliband has accepted that Labour lost in May, and thinks that they can regain power in 2014/5, even though it will be tough to win the 68 seats required for a majority. I think that they can as well. However there are some things they need to look at. In May they only polled about 8.6 million votes, a drop of 900,000 votes from 2005. Presumably Iraq, the “coalition of the willing” and all that caused Labour to shed another 1.2 million votes between 2001 and 2005. The drop in votes, of around 2.8 million votes, between 1997 and 2001 though does need to be looked at. My theory is that this is disaffected left wingers, appalled by Blair’s march to the right. It is a quirk that more people voted Labour in 1992 (when they lost) than in 2001 (when they only dropped 10 seats from their 1997 result). A re-positioning of Labour to it’s natural position as a Centre/Left party might bring the disaffected back out to vote for them.
Ed Milliband made a start in this direction with his maiden conference speech, which drew the line on the “New Labour” years, and set out on a path trying to stand up for the disaffected, and for those on the wrong end of Cameron’s cuts. From the “edited highlights”, i suspect that the speech went for the broad brush approach rather than give any detail. When he delivered the lines about happy societies being the ones with small gap’s between the rich and the poor, you would have given a penny for the thought’s of Peter “seriously relaxed about people getting rich” Mandleson, let alone Tony Blair. One lesson the younger Milliband needs to learn though is his media management skills. Put simply, he needs an Alastair Campbell, or else the Murdoch press and the other sections of the Tory supporting media will eat him alive. Still the line about Cameron - “You were an optimist once” – was a nice reversal of the line Cameron used to introduce himself to Blair - “you were the future once” – in 2005.
Of a more pressing matter, there are Holyrood elections next May. There were two parts of the speech which might have implications. Ed Milliband said that if he agreed with a policy, he would not oppose it from a dogmatic view. Labour under Iain Gray, and previously Wendy Alexander, have opposed the SNP for opposition's sake. Gray and Milliband have also stated their opposition to the exorbitant wages given to heads of civil service departments. Not going to go down well in certain Scottish councils, where council leaders “earn” £60,000, and waste £270,000 on severance payments. For Miliband, it was a good start, but he has an awful lot of work ahead of him before he even contemplates the next General Election. However, it was nice to finally hear of a policy from Iain Gray.