Ed wins – what next?
So, after all the debating and argument, by the narrowest of margins, Ed Miliband is our new Leader. We have as a party shown that electoral defeat no longer produces a knee-jerk move to the Left, whatever the media say.
I voted for Ed as my second preference, after voting for Diane, my vote for her being a way of drawing a line in the sand after the New Labour period, and to try to foster wider debate within the party. We are now in a position that needs careful handling if we want to win in 2015, as a number of factors come into play:
Firstly, Ed has already stated that our opposition stance will have to be a lot more constructive than it has been so far. This is to the good, as we were clear before May that cuts would have to be made, and it makes no sense to the general public if we spend our time denying the deficit exists. where we disagree with the coalition is on how deep and how fast, and on what should be cut. We all know that we need to have a credible alternative to the worn-out monetarist guff coming from Osborne and Co.
On regulation, it may well be that Vince cable will be able to propose far-reaching changes that will help re-balance the economy in the future. We need to support him where we can, while developing his arguments further. On the Reform Bill, we have a greater problem, and also much more to gain – the blatant gerrymandering that has been included in the Bill is the one serious bloc to Labour support (see Nick Cohen in the Observer yesterday). However, a fairer voting system is manifestly just. In one sense, the passing of this Bill by the coalition would solve one problem, whether or not we support it. The problem of the AV referendum, which is going to b a tough fight, is that if we do not support it, we are open to charges of double standards. Therefore our opposition needs to stress the undemocratic nature of the seat culling and boundary changes, whilst showing support for the Yes campaign.
Charges from the right that Ed is just a Trades Union puppet, such as those made by the (unelected) Baroness Warsi, are not new, but need to be handled carefully. The usual Tory anti-Union line is followed up by the £80 billion cuts to the public sector, which face huge Union opposition. We must be sure that every cut we oppose can be met with an alternative. And we must strenuously propose our alternatives, if we wish to effectively back any fightback, and give it a chance of success.
Within our own ranks we have to be honest as to why we were so rejected last May. This means asking tough questions, and taking tough measures. Phil Woolas and his agent should be immediately suspended from the Party until an internal inquiry has judged whether or not they have brought the party into disrepute. Likewise certain councillors in East London, Doncaster, and in certain areas of Scotland. We need to clean out the stables, and to win back the trust that we have lost, not just in government, but also in local government too. Ex ministers who have dodgy links to shady businessmen cannot be allowed onto the opposition frontbench. this will be hard, and I doubt that the PLP will like it much, but this needs to be done.
We have an opportunity to recreate our party as the sole national party of opposition, we could be instrumental in helping to redraw the political map of Britain, and we could be back in power in 2015, but only if we are honest, bold, and determined. This week at conference, Ed and the rest of the candidates have the chance to show how far we have already come since May, comrades, don’t blow it.