Sunday 26 September 2010

Why Ed Miliband's core instinct is to battle for the middle ground

Most discussion of Ed Miliband's leadership campaign has been about three questions: the psychodrama of his decision to stand against his brother; the vague and usually unsubstantiated claims that he was lurching ultra-leftwards (please answer Next Left's Red Ed challenge if you wish to propagate this), and, in the last fortnight, whether he could really win the horse race.

Ed Miliband's political and policy agenda will surprise those who project a caricature on to him. Since this focuses strongly on how Labour values can connect to majority concerns, it is no surprise to see that he begins with a pitch to the "squeezed middle" in the Sunday Telegraph. Read Ed Miliband's piece here.

That is not about positioning as centrist. This is at the core of his thinking about what Labour is for, for similar reasons as those set out by John Healey last week.

There will be no abandoning of "mainstream" opinion - but there will be a focus on trying to make sure that the idea of Middle Britain does not exclude those who really live there, such as those on the median income of £21,000 in prosperous southern towns like Reading, in seeking to build the broadest possible coalitions around insecurity and aspiration.

If Ed Miliband were simply a "soft left" "heart over head" candidate interested in talking to the party and not the country, then why on earth did he ask John Denham MP to lead on long-term policy work for his leadership campaign? Denham, the hard-headed Southampton MP is respected across the party, and has had most to say about Labour's "southern discomfort" and English identity challenges over several years.

Sure, Denham did resign from the government over Iraq, also winning respect for the way he worked his way back to ministerial office including as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. His primary domestic focus has been on how Labour ensures that its arguments on inequality understand and connect with a robust public "fairness code" which sees reciprocity and contribution as central to the deal.

Ed Miliband spoke from the start of the campaign about "a welfare state based not just on need but on contribution", and has been influenced by the Fabian Society's work on public attitudes to fairness and inequality (including the potential tensions berween them), and our advocacy in The Solidarity Society about the need for contribution and reciprocity to be central to any inequality agenda which hopes to take the public with it.

* John Denham will join Jon Cruddas, Gisela Stuart, Yvette Cooper and Kwame-Kwei Armeh to debate Can Labour speak to England in Manchester Town Hall on Sunday night at 6pm on the Fabian fringe.


jheawood said...

Good piece Sunder. Now the big question: how is he going to face up to Cameron? He'll need to be very human with him - warm, dignified - but also very tough; hit him where it hurts from the beginning and keep hitting.

Newmania said...

He was Brown`s boy ,he was elected by the Unions and he went against his brother, as the anti Blairite candidate .He was supported by the left of the Party , was too left wing to get a majority there and the supposed relevance of his policy doodles is insulting the meanest intelligence.
They mean nothing,his positioning was clear to the Labour Party as it was to you and Sunny Hundal

Red Ed and Red Ken in one week .

13eastie said...

Labour's constitutional shambles lurches from one disaster to the next.

FIrst they have a leader who had never garnered a single vote from anybody outside Kircaldy. Now they have a leader who most members of the PLP voted AGAINST!

You'd struggle terribly to make this up...

Those Labour MP's that have clung on to their seats now understand how badly having the wrong leader can screw them. It's not a lesson they want to learn again in a hurry. How long will we have to wait to find out how the PLP feel about having Tony Woodley foist the WRONG Miliband on them?

The Leader of the Opposition will never speak with conviction because he will always know that his "friends" in the Commons undermined him before he was even installed.

(Or maybe they were both really the same all along?).

If Ed is offered the bronze medal in the 2015 election tomorrow, he should take it now.

Wyrdtimes said...

How about taking the opportunity to listen to England instead of speaking to England?

For starters, how about asking the people of England if we want our English parliament back and working in our interests, the same way the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish were consulted about devolved government.

Robert said...

The problem is we have an ( Wales) Assembly which is not a government.

The fact is we have AM's not MP's in Wales, we have tip bits given to use but the fact is if we had a government we would not now be told that we are going to lose 500 million in cuts from England.

The fact is if Labour England would have given us Independence you would have lost about 20 labour MP's , it's doubtful labour England would ever win another election.

But of course thats not what people mean when they say Wales has a government what you mean we can still vote in a general election