Today's Observer interviews 9 "left-leaning thinkers" asking them each the same set of questions about what Ed Miliband should be doing as Labour leader. I found 8 of the 9 useful; even Robert Philpot of Progress (an organisation I am no great fan of, although to their credit they backed Yes2AV) manages to impart a certain wisdom to proceedings. The one person whose advice appeared to be completely worthless was Kitty Ussher of Demos, who appears to think that all that's needed is to copy Tony Blair, circa 1995, despite the fact that most of the collapse in Labour's vote total between 1997 and 2010 occurred on Blair's watch, and Brown ran in 2010 essentially on a continuation of the Blair agenda.
Anyway, I thought it would be good fun to offer my own take on the Observer questions in the hope that Ed might come across it at some stage. So here is my advice to Ed:
What is your verdict on Ed Miliband's leadership so far?
In terms of putting the mechanics in place to build a policy platform for 2015 (policy review, "Refounding Labour" consultation", etc.), pretty good. In terms of articulating a clear forward vision, we've had flashes of it (his initial leader speech at Labour Party conference in September 2010, his speech to Resolution Foundation on the "squeezed middle", etc.) but he needs to do a lot more of that to give "new generation Labour" more definition as a work in progress. Marks out of 10: 7.
What "big idea" in terms of policy/strategy do you think Labour should pursue in opposition?
Reforming the economy to provide a comprehensive alternative to neoliberal capitalism. In the first instance that needs fundamental reform of the financial system and corporate governance, much greater equality, and much more democracy across the economy. Quite simply, Labour needs to an updated version of its 1974 manifesto commmitment - "a fundamental shift in the balance of wealth and power in favour of ordinary people (the "squeezed middle and bottom") and their families. And in many ways, a fundamental repudiation of New Labour.
Who should Labour be appealing to to win the next election? (Disaffected Lib Dems, soft Tory vote, the core vote?)
All these and more; "people who've never voted because they think all the parties are full of crap" would be another category. At the end of the day, rather than saying "we need this policy for group A and this for group B" it's much better to say "these are the policies we believe in and we think are best for the country, now how do we convince group A of this, group B of this", and so on? In other words do not try to assemble a ragbag of incoherent policies on the basis of a series of focus groups but try for something holistic and coherent (which can then be contrasted with the incoherence of the ConDem coalition).
What would be your top tip for Ed Miliband to give steel to his leadership?
Externally, start hitting Cameron a lot harder. I've seen speeches at places like the Compass conference by Ed where he's really set the room on fire and he needs to start doing that at PMQs. Angry, but razor-sharp.
Internally, you need to put the Blairites on a tight leash. This is meant to be a "spin-free" shadow cabinet. That means that leakers - if they are in the cabinet - are fair game to be sacked.
What slogan would you suggest for Labour?
I thought Maurice Glasman's suggestion - "Ed Gets It" - was pretty good.