This article was originally published in The London Progressive Journal on
January 1st, 2012.
As a Labour Party member, looking back over 2011 should be a positive experience. The coalition have been allowed time to disprove what was suspected of their motives, and yet again, these motives have been proven as bulwarks of governmental policy issued from behind the political fig leaf that is the Liberal Democrats. At the same time, Ed Miliband has been given time to establish himself as the voice of an alternative vision for the building of a better future for Britain.
It is certainly true to say that the politic of opposition is far easier than the duty of government, yet Miliband’s personal ratings have yet to reach levels expected of somebody taking the fight to an unpopular government busying itself with the bloody business of ripping the heart out of the regional economies, the welfare state, and the dying embers of British manufacturing.
Numerous commentators, in addition to many within the party, make disparaging comments about Ed Miliband, rubbing their hands in anticipation of the ‘inevitable’ power struggle that will surely follow as we all turn in on ourselves, ripping Ed from office and tearing a hole in the party, as ambitious hands clamour to grasp the chalice of leadership.
Such views are misguided, and will only condemn us to a generation on the sidelines as we watch the Tories wreck the country once more.
Whilst Ed certainly isn’t as naturally engaging with television cameras and mass media as Blair, Cameron or Clegg, he has proven himself to be of immaculate political breeding, as well as being a brilliantly shrewd political mind. He is a facilitator, organiser, and a strategist, qualities vital for anyone intending to lead our nation and our economy away from blind cuts, and toward growth and jobs.
I concede the point that Ed needs to raise his profile, and those advising him need to work on the image he projects. As someone who will be knocking on doors come election time however, I would advise Mr Miliband to pay as much attention to the team he assembles around him over the coming months.
Those reaching nervously for the ejector button should hesitate. Looking back to the heady days post-1997, it would be easy to compare Ed’s early ratings, and the abject failure of William Hague to press home his message during his ill-fated time as Tory Leader. The striking difference of course is that the government of the day were investing in public services rather than starving them of funds, and the nation at large was on a high following the promise of a new start.
Differences aside however, I would point my party colleagues in the direction of history when cautioning against Machiavellian manoeuvring.
Looking back at the recent history of the Conservatives, the ousting of Hague, Duncan-Smith and Howard prove my point in that the Tories were as a result, rudderless, disorganised, introspective and unelectable.
We face a fixed term parliament promising nothing except continued attacks on unions and the public sector, cuts, misery, mass unemployment, and a depressing cocktail of poverty and benefit dependency which will last generations. We have a coalition government, glued together by the political ambition of Nick Clegg and a small clique of Lib Dems whose betrayal of principles and supporters alike unlocked the door to a ministerial pension pay day, and access to the government car pool, together with a newly hawkish Tory party who are shameless in their hatred for the sweeping majority of the people they govern.
It would be a mistake for Labour to allow the remainder of the parliament to become too presidential in terms of the comparison between government and opposition. Cameron has referred to himself smugly as “The heir to Blair” and it is clear that he has funnelled a great deal of Tory donations into massaging his image.
Labour should realise that there is strength through unity, and wealth through depth. Miliband needs to carefully examine his shadow cabinet with a mind to blazing new trails, building new bridges, and showing the electorate that the government is just plain wrong.
Labour’s campaign should not solely be about Ed Miliband. It should be about the collective might that is the best that Labour can offer to the electorate. I believe that Ed can assemble, plan and direct such a team.
To focus the battle on Ed versus Dave would be a grave mistake. Labour needs to show that we have the wealth of numbers, strength through unity, and courage of our convictions in sharing the burden of spearheading the fight across that shadow cabinet.
Cameron and Clegg have already assembled a ‘Coalition of the Willing’
For Labour to return to office, and right the wrongs of this administration, Ed Miliband needs to assemble a coalition of the ready and able.