30 September 2011

Ed Miliband - pissing off the right people (most of the time)

As was the case last year, Ed Miliband's Labour Party conference speech just keeps getting better the more I look at the reactions to it.

One outcome of the speech (and in particular the very warm reaction that Ed's line "I'm not Tony Blair" received) has been that the Blairite hard right of the Labour party is utterly demoralised. After the disappointment of their assumed shoo-in candidate, David Miliband, losing to Ed last year, the hard right had hoped that Ed's poor personal approval ratings would somehow contrive an Iain Duncan Smith 2003 situation where Ed would be persuaded to fall on his sword to be replaced by David, or another Blairite (if they could find anyone suitable). The phone hacking scandal, and now Ed's gutsy speech, has made his replacement a very remote prospect this side of an election. You could still - just about - argue that Ed might be vulnerable if Labour does badly in the 2012 local elections, and in particular if Ken Livingstone fails to beat Boris Johnson in the London mayorality rematch; but this is clutching at straws for the Blairite hard right, who seemed to spend most of the conference crying into their beer as they realised the game is up for them.

Typifying this resignation among the hard right was an interview I saw on Channel 4 News last night with the preposterous right wing New Statesman and Labour Uncut maverick blogger Dan Hodges, and the shadow transport minister John Woodcock - who appears to be a cross between Andrew Adonis and a mannered automaton. Hodges was desperate - "Ed's embarked on a suicidal strategy", he wailed. This is very good news. The downbeat mood (reportedly) at the hard-right Progress rally at the conference was very good news. The fact that pain-in-the-ass uber-Blairite journalists like John Rentoul don't like Ed is also very good news. Demoralisation, ceasing and desisting, and - hopefully - leaving the Labour party altogether, would be the best things that could happen to the handful of Blairite ultras who have been trying to orchestrate a coup to take back the Labour leadership for the last 12 months. Note that most of the people who backed David Miliband for the leadership last year are not uber-Blairites and are happy to fall into line behind Ed's strategy. We're talking about a handful of people - just as damaging in their own way as the Trotskyite Militant tendency were in the 1980s. They are demoralised and they are on the way out. All Very Good.

That said, Ed doesn't always piss the right people off - sometimes he pisses off people he needs in the tent with him. This was most evident in the ludicrous part of his speech which attacked disabled benefit claimants as if they were all scroungers - a simple piece of Blairite triangulation totally at odds with the rest of his speech. Tim Nichols of the Child Poverty Action Group has a brilliant post on Left Foot Forward totally demolishing this part of Ed's speech - he badly needs to develop a new progressive narrative on social security (NOT, for F***'s sake, this godawful US word "welfare"), or risk alienating millions of benefit and tax credit claimants whose votes he needs to win next time.

But in general, with some severe reservations, I'm a lot more optimistic about the future of the Labour party now than I was a week ago. Hey, if Ed dropped the bullshit about demonising benefit claimants I might even rejoin, having not been a Labour member since 1992 when I resigned claiming that John Smith(!) was "selling us out". I'm in the Green party at the moment - ideally I'd like to be in both the Green party and the Labour Party, and perhaps it would be useful if such a facility could be introduced. F*** tribalism, yes to pluralism.

1 comment:

Van Patten said...

There are two possible strategies for Labour, and I agree Ed has gone for the one were I so minded, that actually has echoes of Gordon Brown's strategy. That is to create a powerful coalition of people who will support you no matter how ruinous your policies are for the country as a whole. For Brown, that meant three groups:

1/ immigrants, who were deliberately encouraged and given covert advice on how to register electorally and run postal voting fraud so in several cases in the West Midlands , one patriarch literally had nearly 500 votes, many of which were from family members resident in Pakistan or Bangladesh. (But who came to the UK to use the NHS)

2/ the NPPS - 'Non productive Public Sector' which effectively comprises the estmiated 650 to 750 thousand 'non jobs' created across quangoes and local authorities by Blair and Brown - if any one of these people vote Tory I'd be surprised

3/ welfare recipients/ benefit claimants, whose continued existence provides Group 2 with its raison d'etre (not that they have any interest in solving the problems as to do so would provide a direct threat to THEIR continued existence).

Of these three groups, it could be argued the NPPS is under severe (and quite necessary - but I digress) attack by the Coalition, so the strategy for me has to be to maximise group 3, especially prior to the excellent franchise reforms predicted for 2016 which will hopefully begin the process of restricting the franchise so no kind of 'progressive' coalition can ever get us into the state we are currently in.

However, the alternative strategy, as touted by Hodges, seems to be to attempt to 'out Tory' the coalition and appeal to the electorate on the right of it. It's not a strategy that I can see working.

One caveat, however, and that is that Mr.Ed HAS to win in 2015 for this strategy to work. If he fails, and the Conservatives (by that time, the Liberals will have ceased to exist in my eyes as a separate entity) will alomst certainly pass some sort of bill to deal with the West Lothian question (they've already basically cut the Scottish Tories loose), and combined with the franchise reforms which basically strip people who don't contribute to private sector well being of the vote, Labour doesn't stand a cat in hell's chance of winning ever again.