Monday 17 January 2011

What the commentators said: more #fab11 reaction

Ed Miliband's speech to Saturday's Fabian new year conference - which you can watch, or read online - continues to generate a lot of response from commentators and bloggers. Here are some more reactions to the event.

Jenni Russell in the Evening Standard says Ed Miliband has to play a long game in opposition

Had these pledges been made in government they would have been electrifying, because action would have had to follow. They addressed so many of the issues that have made voters on the ground and critics like me despair over the past decade. As it was, they appeared before those of us in the rows of seats at the Institute of Education like a charming mirage - enticing, but inevitably insubstantial. How would this society be achieved? How would Labour pay for it all when money is so short? How can people's lives be made less insecure in a globalised economy?

Julian Glover in The Guardian welcomes the Labour leader's willingness to engage in a battle of ideas

Ed Miliband had a go in his thoughtful Fabian speech, attacking "the bureaucratic state and the overbearing market" that the last Labour government – as he admitted – encouraged. People, he argued, should "be liberated to have the real freedom to shape their own lives". The striking thing is he is both correct and expressing a liberal philosophy with which he, as a socialist, ought to be uncomfortable. When I asked Miliband recently whether he was a liberal he paused, then said "no" – even so, he knows what is wrong with the statist centralism that has always polluted the humane instincts of his party.

The Guardian's Jackie Ashley believes Labour is embarking on the right path to attract defectors from the LibDems.

Douglas Alexander, speaking at the weekend Fabian conference on the same platform as Hughes, put it well when he described the pain of Lib Dems today: they see themselves as part of the centre-left project, but are inside a centre-right administration. He rightly warned they would be judged on what they did, not what they said.

A similar message came from Ed Miliband yesterday. What strikes me most about his positioning is how much easier it makes things for Lib Dem defectors. Miliband talks about defending local communities; about learning the lessons of an over-managerial state; and about Labour's failures in regulating the City. He is also the most pro-green and civil libertarian leader Labour has had.

The Telegraph's Mary Riddell says that Lab-Lib relations are thawing fast and could .

In Ed Miliband's most impressive speech so far, to a Fabian home crowd, he apologised for past errors (even if they were all Gordon Brown's) and sketched a vision for a society run by co-operative values rather than big state edict. Even some Conservative critics have conceded things are looking up for Mr Miliband, who invited disenchanted Lib Dems to join his "progressive majority" ...

Mr Miliband's concession on Andrew Marr that he might do business with Mr Clegg were he to be "the sinner who repenteth" hardly constitutes a love-in, especially given the bad blood of recent months. But the deputy prime minister is said, in private, to be responding warmly ...

To his Right, Tory hardliners denounce him [Cameron]. To his Left, the Lib Lab truth and reconciliation process has begun. Any political courtship between Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband may prove, for the Prime Minister, to be a very dangerous liaison.


The Economist's Blighty blog says Ed Miliband's one refusal to apologise is over the issue that counts most.

Instead, Ed Miliband has manouvered his party into a bizarre and extremely unpromising position. In recent op-eds, yesterday's speech to the Fabian Society conference, and today's appearance on the BBC, he has rejected the notion that Labour overspent. ... And in a pretty transparent attempt at deflection, Mr Miliband is effusively apologetic for almost every other vaguely regrettable thing that happened in Britain between 1997 and 2010.

James Forsyth of The Spectator saw Miliband's comment about changing the common sense of the age as a tribute to Margaret Thatcher's ideological impact.

What I find interesting about Miliband is that he trying to move the centre ground from opposition, something than no one has done successfully since Thatcher. Both Blair and Cameron moved towards it in opposition and only tried to shift it in government.

While Spectator editor Fraser Nelson thinks things are going right for the Labour leader. Nelson doesn't think much of 'fuzzy Labour', except that it might have a very broad appeal for the only major party of opposition.

Ed’s latest weapon is branding: not New Labour but Fluffy Labour. He offers, of course, “a broad, open, progressive majority built on a coalition of values.” Sometimes it's a “broad movement of the mainstream”. What else? To Labour, it’s the party led by Red Ed that wants to tougher on nasty capitalists. To Lib Dems, it’s led by a proud “progressive”. To ex-Tories (and let’s remember about 10 percent of Oldham Tories defected to Labour at the last election), it’s a small-c conservative party led by a nice, middle-class guy concerned about preserving high streets. In other words, Fuzzy Labour is all things to all people.

Melanie Phillips thinks Ed Miliband's appeal to ethical traditions may resonate - but argues that both David Cameron and Miliband are unwittingly promoting Marxist radicalism.

Eye-rubbing stuff indeed from ‘Red Ed’. For this was the language of ‘small-c conservatism’ — a distaste for the degeneracy that resulted from Labour’s mania for deregulating activities harmful to society, while at the same time disempowering the individual through big government.

Even more intriguingly, his ennoblement to the House of Lords of a hitherto obscure academic called Maurice Glasman appeared to be part of the same story.


When you look a bit harder, Glasman’s ‘small-c ­conservatism’ turns out to be anything but. It’s not just that many of his views obviously belong very firmly on the Left, such as his animosity towards the financial power of the City of ­London.

More blog reaction

The Stephen B stand up tall blog thinks that the call to "change the common sense of the age" is important - and shows how Labour can 'get' sustainability and liberty.

Mil of 21st century fix liked the rediscovery of mutualist traditions - but believes the 'what' as well as the 'how' of Labour politics should remain open for debate (in a response to Mark Ferguson of LabourList.

Writing for LibDemVoice, Neal Lawson of Compass finds that these are "confusing, exciting and terrifying times for those on the liberal left":

Ed Miliband is starting to address the fundamental failures that led to the slump in the Labour vote last May. On Saturday at the Fabian conference he in effect said that Labour can’t trash its record – because the public already had. Tentatively but surely he is starting to rethink Labour’s addiction to the bureaucratic state as he pointed a finger at the top-down Fabian tradition. There is a long way to go and it involves many areas like civil liberties – but the journey has at least begun. It is in everyone’s interest on the centre-left for Ed and Labour to combine the desirable with the feasible and effectively renew itself.

Politics student and new Fabian member Tyron Wilson at Rose Tinted Eyes thinks Miliband is mostly developing the right critique, but will need a different language to make it resonate for public audiences.

Siraj Datoo wants the Fabians to reach out more beyond the Labour party.

Libertarian blogger Anna Raccoon attacks the Fabian tradition, and believes it will set us all on the road to hell unless libertarians rise up and revolt.

Session reports

Left Foot Forward has been running reports from many of the conference panels.

Seph Brown reports on whether green issues can be mainstreamed

Shamik Das reports on what the democracy dragons thought of pitches, and examines the case for greater media accountability.

Tom Rouse reports on prospects for internationalism.

You can catch more conference reaction in our media and blogs round-up and our conference preview.

If we've missed your response to the conference, please leave a comment or email us about it.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I wrote a blogpost about the event here:

Sunder Katwala said...

Thanks. I've now added a link to your blog in the main post too.

Wail Q said...

I've blogged about this here:

Mr.Rupinder.Singh said...

Dear Sunder I have written my thoughts on Ed Milibands's speech at Fabian New Year Conference 2011. Conference was very good and thanks to all the Fabian team for very good work. My blog link is given below.