What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Ed’s first speech…

OK – having just listened carefully to Eds first keynote speech, I suppose I must give y’all my first impressions…

As as performance, Ed built up a creditable head of steam, and obviously learnt early on that oratory is not necessarily shouting. As a relatively unknown new Leader, he also had to flesh out his backstory for the general public. On the whole, it was a carefully pitched effort, a speech to both unify the party and to reach out to those millions of voters we lost under Blair and Brown after 2001.

A number of points were raised, and although it was of course short on policy, it was heavy on aspiration – both for Labour, and for the country as a whole.

ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, BROTHER…

Starting with the back story of his family was a good move for someone that few outside of politics know much about – his parents flight from the Nazis, their (very) left wing credentials, and general human interest were all covered. Although much the same age as Cameron and Clegg, his background is radically different from either – no landed yeomanry in his past, thats for certain.

On the Unions, he steered a course succinctly between stressing the right and necessity of Unions defending ordinary people and the Bob Crow faction within the TUC, thus undermining Tory jibes (tired as they are) about “Union paymasters”.

The really interesting parts were to come…

OUT WITH THE “NEW”, IN WITH THE…?

Whilst staying reasonable in tone, and paying tribute to the positive legacy of our last thirteen years in government, he drew a line under New Labour.

On Civil Liberties, Equal Rights and Iraq, Ed was a breath of fresh air. Whether we agreed with the ousting of Saddam, or or had problems with dodgy dossiers, it was clear that this was a new page  – couched in the realism that between 2001 and 2010 we lost 5 million voters. olive branches were offered to those of a liberal persuasion, whether LDs or not.

Throughout his speech, Blair and Brown were bracketed together as “Tony & Gordon” – significantly placing blairites and brownites together, whilst also stressing the need to move on.

In fact, in the light of Nick Clegg’s vitriol aimed at Labour in Liverpool, Ed aimed all his attacks at the Tories, and David Cameron. We have a Leader who has grasped that we may need to form a coalition of our own, or maybe Ed is too well brought up to kick a man when he is down, either way, what was to follow was great news…

A NEW HOPE…

The Leader of The Labour Party, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, came out in full backing of a Yes vote in the AV referendum! He was unambiguous in his personal support for AV, and if we act quickly enough, we may be able to swing significant numbers of Labour supporters and activists behind the campaign. His support for an elected House of Lords was also not couched in the previous lukewarm terms of New Labour, but put centre stage, and both were well received within the hall. This is a major shift in both policy and attitude within Labour, and should not be underestimated.

The next steps were equally as important – Ed’s “Tamworth Manifesto” moment – he introduced the concept of constructive opposition, last used to great effect by the late John Smith. On the economy, he stressed a sensible level of deficit reduction, and wisely, given that we have yet to see detailed government plans, called for support for sensible economies, rather than blanket opposition. We have yet to know what Ed deems a “sensible” cut, or even to know exactly where the axe will fall, but this is a classic and useful position, given that we were advocating economies of our own in our last manifesto.

The call to social unity across the rich-poor divide – that we are happiest in societies that are less unequal, was a great foil for Cameron’s “Big Society”, and has already led to Sir Philip Blond to confusedly mark Ed out as a “red Tory” – it may be that Sir Philip is really a blue Social Democrat…

IN SUMMATION, CONFERENCE…

This speech was a good start, and showed that we have the ability to move on in a way that took the Conservatives ten years to do.

Action is needed, but the central theme that we need to move on from New Labour is perhaps a tacit acceptance that more than one viewpoint needs to be heard in policy discussions and development. Support for AV needs to be converted into action – Take Back Parliament needs Labour input. The studied lack of hostility towards the Liberal Democrats was both refreshing and may be useful for years to come.

This early in a period of opposition, what we need is less detailed policy, more a re-statement of principles. This speech was a good start. Lets move towards making the Good Society a reality.

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