Tuesday 12 April 2011

Nice Guy Eddie

When the coalition hit their six month anniversary, we all had something to say. Some listed the cuts, some profiled prominent ministers or rising stars, others looked into policy, department by department.

Today marks the 6 month anniversary of Ed Miliband becoming Labour leader. Plus 17 days.

No-one commented, I don't remember seeing a single profile anywhere. Perhaps no-one really cared.

When it comes to politics, it is indeed true that I'm so tribal, I've been known to carry a spear. If you remove the shirts of most Labour tribalists, you'll find the word "Loyalty" tattooed underneath. Blair made this form of branding compulsory and the ghost-of-militant-past haunted us all into complying.

Perhaps that's why we've all stayed quiet.

The Conservatives barely know he's there. Like an irritating fly buzzing around their tough old hides, they flick him away with ease.

Labour members are delighted to see such a large scale consultation going on internally. "Fresh Ideas" and "Movement for Change" are exciting opportunities for Labour. If genuinely implemented, they could not only bring Labour back to her grass-roots, but invigorate the party as a fighting force fit to represent those it is charged with abandoning.

When it comes to looking outwards however, it won't help my party one jot to pretend things are going well.

A nurse turned up to our CLP meeting last week. She'd never come along before, but had just one burning question she wanted to ask - "Where are Labour?"

Faced with the effective privatisation of our National Health Service, why weren't they screaming from every rooftop? A quick straw poll showed that only two members knew the name of the shadow health minister. (John Healey, in case you too are struggling)

Whatever happens, don't cling to the false hope of opinion polls. Six point leads are appalling faced with this scale of ideological Tory chaos. They are phantoms, gone with the wave of an Osborne-tax-cutting magic wand.

We over-opinionated scribblers get so caught up with focus groups and policy forums and strategy groups, we forget that most people "in the real world" can't name more than two or three politicians. I'll never forget the lady on the doorstep, just before the election, who told me she'd be voting for "that nice David Clegg". If you spend more than a millisecond of your life canvassing you'll be put very quickly and firmly in your place. Non-politicos spend all of 2 or 3 seconds a day thinking about politics (if that) and if they even have an opinion of Ed Miliband, I fear it is "geek".

It pains me to say it. I can feel cold winds whistling around my laptop. I have been hypocritically quiet on the subject. Nonetheless, it is never a good idea to ignore things because they hurt.

I am delighted that Ed is focussing on restoring my party. It is one of the things I hoped for most.

At the same time though, he needs a few boxing lessons. He needs to land a few blows, chase that killer punch. Why for instance isn't he finishing off Lansley? I could finish off Lansley with a wet kipper.

And the "Strategic" Defence Review? Tories are furious about it. Aircraft carriers with no aircraft? A war with no soldiers or airmen? It's a big fat gift wrapped up with a bow.

The "squeezed middle" is starting to look very clever strategically. It will almost certainly win vital swing votes. However, a Labour party who forgets the "pinched bottom" is fostering resentment amongst the very people keeping the party alive day in and day out. Blair knew it well. Winter Fuel Payments, free bus passes and TV  licences, minimum wage and childcare all played to the core vote. Whatever free-market jiggery-pokery went on behind the scenes, policies sounded awfully Labour. 

How about Tuition fees? Should have been Ed's glory hour surely? He ran for leader on a graduate tax.

Forests? NHS? Tax avoidance? *tumbleweed* one could be forgiven for thinking that the mighty 38 Degrees are currently leading Her Majesties Opposition.

Don't even start me on the sick and disabled. I fear I would lose my comedy mojo. As the only policy on the table, completely abandoning us sickies has not gone down well.

With the coalition falling apart at the seams, with almost every department in total chaos, Labour should be riding high.

Ed has been conciliatory, reasonable and non-confrontational. All admirable traits, but how's it working out for ya there Ed? I'm not sure your ordinary bloke at home feels very conciliatory, reasonable OR non-confrontational when faced with lower wages, higher inflation, higher VAT, slashed police numbers, cuts to his childcare, soaring fuel prices, closing hospital wards, selling our blood service, closing our youth centres, sport centres and theatres, the threat of unemployment and no holiday this year or any year soon.

Throw in yet another dubious war, bankers sneering at their incredible good-fortune and Tory ministers making Etonian/Racist/Sexist/Homophobic gaffs left right and centre and, given a shot at opposition, your average crowd at the Dog and Duck could probably force a general election before Xmas.

No more Mr Nice Guy, Ed. It isn't chiming with the public mood. We want an ally, a friend an advocate, but mostly, we want to see Cameron et all squirm. Preferably we want to see them gone. Cosying up to the top-tea-table isn't going to speed things along.


  1. Brilliantly said Sue. I've asking this for weeks - why *aren't* they screaming from the rooftops over the NHS? Over the reforms being implemented before they are law?
    And now that the coalition are retreating on the Health Bill, they should be swooping in to attack and finish it. And calling for Lansley to resign.

    Come on Labour, get your fighting gloves on and it give it some welly!

  2. Not that nice Sue:

    Edward Miliband: "I thank the Prime Minister for that answer and for undertaking to keep the House informed. He has our full support on the issue.

    Let me turn to the issue of benefits and say to the Prime Minister that we will work with him on his reforms to disability living allowance and to sickness benefits, because they are important reforms and they need to be done. On child benefit, though, I think that those on his own Benches and the country at large do have concerns. May I ask him, first, how many families where one parent stays at home will be affected by the changes that he has proposed to child benefit?"

  3. As I said :

    "Don't even start me on the sick and disabled. I fear I would lose my comedy mojo. As the only policy on the table, completely abandoning us sickies has not gone down well."

  4. Brilliant, as always Sue (((x)))

  5. Brilliant post Sue, well done!(says a lot as I'm not a Labour Supporter)

  6. Crikey Sue, I didn't think I'd see you lay into Labour like that. Thanks for being honest.

  7. I'm an old member of the Militant Tendency, one of the ones who avoided expulsion mainly because i'd fallen out with Militant before the expulsion began. So i tend to be a little less loyal when i comes to speaking out and I couldn't agree more with Sue on this. It scares me how quiet Labour have been in the face of the most right wing ideologically driven government we've had in the last 80 years. We keep hearing how we don't want to go back to the days of Militant or to the 70's but what I see is a Labour Party stuck someplace in the mid 90's when Tony Blair was at his height. For some reason Ed seems to think that moving on from there is to stick with New Labour. Well its not, we need to roll back from New labour. Moving further to the right isn't the answer and the "We will work with the coalition" statements aren't what we need either. What we need is a clear WE WILL FIGHT THE COALITION TOOTH AND NAIL

  8. I still don't see Ed as a future leader and at this time is still far off the mark where the support for the NHS and benefits are concerned

    There is nothing in his tone of voice that is grabbing like tony Benn or that of Enoch Powell as to be a leader you have to sound the part above all else it is no good to just keep going over old ground without making some sort of impact and you can only do that by your voice along with a body language that all can see that you mean business

  9. Brilliant writing! Perhaps Milliband needs to take a leaf out of this woman's book -


  10. Yep they're still New Labour, and will go back to grovelling and pandering to the right-wing hate papers as soon as they get back in power.

  11. Sue,

    The Shadow of the Blair/Brown years still persists. For example, Lord Freud, opportunist that he most certainly is, was, regrettably, a labour introduction.

    Ed Miliband, IMHO, is yet to fully consolidate his leadership and is still in the position of playing referee to internal party divisions.

    While I will grant that his demonstration speech, as his conference speech, did mark a clear distinction from the past, for every new direction he may want to pursue, there is at least one former Labour honcho or appointee supporting Tory led coalition position or policy. Whether we look at Blair or Mandelson on the Deficit, or Hutton or Fields feathering their own nests, the new path for labour is mined by the IEDs of the past. Until this is resolved, Ed will be limited in his ability to introduce new initiatives, but I will certainly agree that the middle path he has chosen is unlikely to bear much fruit.

  12. It's like I said in my 'No Alternative' post on WTB for March for the Alternative, as far as I can see Ed Milliband offers pretty much exactly the same policies as Cameron and Clegg, and where it matters to me most, disability benefit policy, he's explicit in that and in offering the Con-Dems his support. Why would I vote for Labour, which I've done consistently, when they are offering me precisely the same as the Con-Dems? The only option I have voting at the moment is to spoil my ballot.

  13. Great post. It's incredible that Miliband isn't leading a huge movement against these cuts, but wary as he is of the "red" epithet, it seems he's trying not to rock the boat and make himself unelectable with the south east of England.

    In the end, with the top being treated to ever more goodies and the bottoms of the poor being whopped till they sting, it can only be a matter of time before people take matters into their own hands.

    I'm no one's revolutionary, but I was not in the least disturbed by the direct action taken in the Engish capital a few weeks ago. More power to their elbow, I say

    If Labour won't stand up for us, then we needs must stand up for ourselves. As the likes of Cameron will never listen to the great unwashed, he may find that he is made to listen.

    I never thought I'd say it but ... bring it on.

  14. Fighting talk here. Losing talk I think.

    More than 4 years to go yet, so Ed must not become a hostage to developments in those years.

    I'm sure he won't either. The more genuine suffering emerges from current policy, as opposed to predicted pain, the more the polls go towards 50%.

  15. In America the Republicans won't announce their candidate for president until about six months before the presidential election is held, so the candidate will be fresh and full of new ideas, in this country the leader of the opposition has got to wait four years until there is a general election so he needs to pace himself. If he peaks too soon the government can steal his best ideas and put them into law well before the election.

    If he opposes every new proposal without offer alternatives he is portrayed as being negative with no ideas of his own.

    What the Labour Party needs to be doing is to ensure that at every PMQ at least 3 MPs stand up and ask specific questions about disability benefits, high-lighting how changes have adversely effected individual constituents. Cameron is very good at making sweeping statements about the need to reform the benefits system but he struggles when faced with specific questions which outline how reforms are working in practice.

  16. "Fighting talk here. Losing talk I think."

    What does winning matter if it means treading on the people with least to give?

    When did winning become more important than the principles we stand for?

    "The more genuine suffering emerges from current policy, as opposed to predicted pain, the more the polls go towards 50%."

    So let disabled people like Sue and I and hundreds of thousands more suffer for years, because that's good for votes? I'll campaign even more virulently against any party pushing that strategy than I will against the Con-Dems and their cuts. There's a moral difference between creating misery and exploiting it, neither are acceptable, but the latter is a greater betrayal of everything Labour is supposed to stand for.

  17. I havent had time to read all the posts here but I have a cautious "good" feeling re Ed? He has been landed with a party whose MPs are for the most part "new" Labour. Many local parties have been devastated by the Blair years. For example mine is now made up of what was 3 local Labour Parties and there are still only 7 of us attending meetings! As 5 of those are retired and disabled to one degree or another we have only been able to leaflet one ward out of 8 or more. No canvassing at all.

    This govt are sucking people into politics ----- 38 Degrees, UKUncut etc. Eds grassroots opinion finding may give him the "power" to change the direction of the party. But to do it legitimately the push has to come from the bottom up? I sense that Ed knows this and is allowing this push to build.

    Of course I may be wrong :0)