Upon hearing Ed Miliband’s impassioned pitch for our support for his leadership bid, I was greatly and pleasantly surprised. This is a guy who I built up a lot of faith in pre-Copenhagen ’09, only to be disappointed and deflated by the eventual outcome. As a result, I felt Ed had blown his first chance of the political “big time”, though I wasn’t by any means judging him as anything other than the brilliant politician he remained. He then did a...well...decent job, with the manifesto. I must say, when I received my copy of “A Future Fair For All”, I was slightly disappointed with the style (compared to the Conservatives’ “Invitation To Join The Government Of Britain”, it was a poor design) but also with the content to a degree. It should have been bolder and it should have had a clearer direction and aim. In addition, big brother David Miliband was clearly becoming a well-respected politician on the world stage, with Hillary Clinton appearing to wish she could role-play with David in a Clinton-Lewinsky scenario.
When David stated his intention to run last week, I was fully behind him immediately. However, Ed’s speech to the Fabian Conference was what the enthusiasts could call a “game changer”. I had to admit to myself that since I began supporting the party, no message has struck such a chord with me. Ed’s message that we need to reconnect with our core and re-embrace our idealism is, for want of a less pathetic word, beautiful! As much as the media has tried to fix candidates into the Brownite-Blairite categories, Ed’s direction is clearly neither. The categories have been made redundant. After 13 years in government we don’t need major surgery, we just need to remember, as a party, what we stand for, who we stand for and how we work for people.
He also said things that we just need to accept. Immigration, he told us, is a class issue. That may sound odd, but those of us who campaigned in less affluent parts of the country during this campaign will understand totally. In addition, though I can’t remember the exact poll, an Angus Reid poll in the run up to the election showed that immigration was a more important issue to the lower social classes. Of course, it’s easier to say things like this now we’re back in Opposition, but they still need to be said.
The main thing, though, that resonated with me was how Ed said we need to involve everyone, more. Members, MPs, councillors, trade unions, Fabians and constituents; we all need to be in on the discussion about where we go from here. Now, I don’t know how he plans to do this. As one fellow blogger wrote recently, this could involve somehow making constituency parties a more attractive entity. The scope for communication with everyone the party seeks to serve and help and the means with which to do it are now immense; far, far greater than they were in 1997. It is only Labour that can utilise this ability to communicate with the masses to the advantage of all. Simply because Labour’s idealism, as it was in the days of Bevan and Attlee, is the only political idealism that is truly fair for everyone in this country.
My rash decision to back David Miliband may still be vindicated when he announces his full intentions and plans. But Ed Miliband has shown his hand in emphatic style and very few other candidates will be able to disagree with the main sentiment of his bid.