Tuesday 28 September 2010

Ed Milliband - Labour's Saviour?

Congratulations to Ed Milliband on winning the election to become leader of the Labour Party.  It is of course too early to say what impact he will have either on the Labour party itself or more importantly, on Labour’s electoral fortunes.  However there are a couple of comments worth making.
The first is about the manner and margin of victory, and in particular his reliance on the votes of Trade Union members.  Already this is being used against him as some try to portray him as a prisoner of the Unions.  All this of course is just nonsense.  Some of it is nothing more than simply sour grapes on the part of the losers.  David Milliband’s supporters in particular seem most annoyed that their man lost.  
However much of this so-called outrage comes from our old friends in the Tory Party and their friends in the right wing media.  And these attacks are completely in tune with the Right’s continuing fear of and hostility to Trade Unions as the representatives of working people.   How dare ordinary workers interfere in the natural order of things!   Unfortunately this view seems to be shared by some members of the Labour Party, especially by many of its MPs, who appear to feel they are entitled to ever greater privileges.
If you look at the actual votes, it is clear that on a one member one vote election, then Ed Milliband would have won on the first round of voting.  Lenin’s Tomb has kindly produced the following table.
Candidate PLP CLP Unions Total
Ed Milliband 84 37980 87585 125649
David Milliband 111 55905 58191 114205
Diane Abbott 7 9314 25938 35259
Ed Balls 40 12831 21618 34489
Andy Burnham 24 10844 17904 28772
As Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb puts it rather nicely:  “Why shouldn’t the individual voices of ordinary voters decide this?”  After all the only Trade Unionists who voted are members of the Labour Party.
Looking to the future, who is likely to be more representative of potential Labour voters in the next general election - the MPs who helped get us into this economic mess and presided over the party’s worst electoral result, or ordinary working people?  I know who I would rather trust.
We will have to wait awhile to find out what policies that an Ed Milliband Labour Party might offer the electorate.  At this early stage he has made a promising start by making a clear break with New Labour.  However his biggest problem may well lie with his colleagues in the Parliamentary Party (PLP).  As the above voting record shows the majority still seems to be stuck in the now discredited Blair/Brown neo-liberal approach.  
I wish him well as the country desperately needs a forceful and credible opposition to the current nasty Coalition.  Somehow he has to find a way to articulate opposition to the forthcoming cuts in public services while at the same time avoiding or at least minimising the loony left tag that the Tories and their media allies will throw at him.  His possible impact on next year’s Scottish elections I will leave for another post, after the dust has settled a bit.

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