Tuesday 28 September 2010

Ed's challenge

Ed Miliband is preparing to give the biggest speech of his life, the standard journalistic cliche that, for once today, happens to be true.

The scale of the audience and the challenge are now on a quite different planet from the last 'biggest speech of his life', speaking to the Fabian Society Next Left conference on Saturday May 15th to launch his leadership campaign.

That was the prelude to an election victory and so the new leader's task today is to begin a conversation with the country to, over time, persuade people that Labour deserves to be returned to power.

To define the shift from New Labour as a necessary generational shift is important.

If the next election is held in 2015, it will be eighteen years after 1997, as distant from New Labour coming to power as the Blair landslide was from James Callaghan's defeat by Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

It is also the natural and inevitable consequence of New Labour's own revisionist argument, that the positions and shibboleths of the party were not always relevant to the challenges it faces in the Britain of the mid-1990s. Again today, Britain is a very different place - because of Labour's successes, its errors and its omissions in office - as well as other sources of political, social and economic change.

There are many lessons from that successful period about how to build a broad majority of support for the centre-left in Britain, in addition to acknowledging how and why Labour's support narrowed significantly after 2001, and then again in its heavy election defeat in May.

That success can be emulated, but it can not be recreated. So Labour's new leader must find and articulate the values-based argument about the nature of British society today which can build the next progressive majority in our country.

* I will be in the conference hall, so will blog some reaction later on. Do share any earlier comments or reactions to the speech here.

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