Thursday 5 January 2012

Glasman’s lesson to Ed Miliband

Maurice Glasman made it too easy for headline writers and Tory opponents to spin his New Statesman article as an attack on the Labour leader and his shadow chancellor Ed Balls. The negative press coverage that charged Glassman with 'savaging' his leader has left those at the top of the party with a further hangover from the barrage of criticism they faced in 2011. Baroness Warsi claimed that Glasman had made it clear “Ed Miliband is simply not up to the job".

But there could also be an important message in Glasman’s words, and one which could prove a useful lesson for 2012. As Glasman recognises in his article, “the world is on the turn”, and Ed Miliband must be at the forefront of that change. With rumours that Lord Glasman has met with the party leader just three times in the last 18 months, this could be seen as his effort in shaping the leader’s plans for 2012; a critique rather than a criticism.

His headline-grabbing article, though perhaps ill-worded, demonstrates what Ed himself must now do; he must find a way for the “shock of the new” to be pushed into the forefront of debate, so it can be transformed into accepted policy. Ed Miliband’s ‘predator and producer’ analogy in his Party Conference speech laid the foundations of his idea for a new capitalism, and it was a move that was met with misunderstanding and derision.

But this notion has since started to win favour throughout 2011. Recent polling for the Fabian Society showed that only 12% thought the prime responsibility of a company was to maximize profit for its shareholders. 80% said that companies should be willing to forgo some profit in order to recognise a wider responsibility to employees, customers and communities. Ed Miliband was one of the first to recognise that 2008’s banking crisis was a seismic event, after which things would have to change. Glasman admits that, on this, Ed Miliband has so far succeeded. And this change would always have to be a gradual adjustment in what we expect and require from our businesses, rather than an instant change. This is what Ed Miliband did in 2011.

But for 2012 our leader must be encouraged to push further, and the New Year should be marked as the year in which Ed will grow from the position he has carefully placed himself. This placing demanded delicacy; Glasman admits Labour needed to be steered from the splits it faced in 1931, 1951 and 1979. But having done this, the time for delicacy is over. 2012 should be a time for strong and directive action, for showing voters that there is another way, by leading the way.

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