Tuesday, 21 June 2011

What IF the Labour Party loses its Ed?

The last couple of weeks has been filled with speculation about the future of Ed Miliband, who, let’s face it, has not been performing brilliantly. He has his defenders, and they may yet be proved right, but as time goes on his position seems more and more untenable, but will Ed go?

I think the answer, quite simply, is no. The problem, as I see it, is that most of the people in Labour who want Ed Miliband gone are former Blairites. They have their first issue: there is no obvious Blairite successor to Ed Miliband. David Miliband could come back, but it is far from certain that he would, rumours persist that his wife wants him out of politics.

David comes with his own downsides too, it is worth remembering that. If David Miliband had been 100% certain to win the next election he would have won the leadership. The fact is that David Miliband comes with some of the same issues as Ed: he is not a particularly inspiring speaker, and he has a bit of a nerdy image. Some may laugh at this but Ed Miliband’s supporters in the leadership contest used to say he was the one who ‘spoke human’. If David doesn’t run then the Blairites have another issue on their hands: who is the obvious Blairite? There simply isn’t one.

The other issue is Ed Balls, and his small, but highly loyal faction. As Brown’s most loyal lieutenant Balls always appears to me to harbour a deep dislike, maybe even hatred, of Blairites that he has inherited from Brown. If an opposition political party wants to change leader mid-term then generally the desire is to it as quickly and easily as possible. For the main opposition party this pretty much necessitates a coronation, a leadership election takes too much time, too much resources that need to be spent on opposing the government. They are also divisive affairs, and unseating a leader is automatically divisive in the first place. The appearance of division is itself a turn-off to the electorate, ultimately politicians know this and that is why, for example, Gordon Brown was never gotten rid of, the potential cost was just too high. The danger is that if Ed Miliband goes the party is plunged into a leadership contest it can ill-afford between Blairites on the one hand and the Balls faction on the other, either in the form of an Ed Balls leadership campaign, or in the form of his wife, Yvette Cooper, running for the leadership.

Running a party after taking over leadership mid-term is hard enough as it is. Ask Michael Howard, who could only pick up the pieces and stabilise the Conservatives after IDS, he never had the ability to truly move his party forward. He had neither the time, nor the political capital inside his party. He had become leader not because of his vision, but to hold his party together.

It is hard to see who in the Labour Party could both gain cross-party consensus for an uncontested coronation and who could then go on to win an election. It is an almost impossible task.

The other alternative is some kind of gentleman’s agreement, a Blairite leader for an Ed Balls Chancellorship, but for those of you with longer memories this probably immediately rings huge alarm bells regarding another agreement between two Labour politicians which eventually soured extraordinarily badly. It also risks ceding economics policy to Balls, the area where he most strongly differs from Blairites in tactics, values and emphasis.

In a strange sense then, Ed Miliband, without really meaning to, appears to have become a sort of unity leader in a divided party. On the deficit, in particular, he holds a mid-ground between Balls and the Blairites. So yes, ultimately I think Ed Miliband will still be leader of the Labour Party at the next election, because I think the potential risks of getting rid of him outweigh the risks of keeping him.


  1. Labour must move on from Blair/Brown totally. They gone, in the past and ceased to be. As long as the Labour Party talks in such terms, it will never win the trust of the Electorate again.

    Ed is doing a decent job so far, in my opinion. It has been a slow start, but the party is moving steadily forward. It has won the post election by-elections well, and the Local Election results in May showed that the Labour Heartlands are coming home. Of course, much work remains in the South of England, and Scotland.

    On policy, Refounding Labour' has begun, and if read Ed's speech from the Progress 2011 Conference, he is building an understanding of the task ahead. Before Labour offers detailed policies, it needs to create the foundation of principles required.

    Labour must not forget that it is barely a year on from a GE defeat after 13 years in Government. The truth is that any Labour Leader will struggle to be heard. It might upset some former Ministers, but the public at large don't really want to hear them at the moment. They must wait until the public at large are receptive to Labour's arguments.

    I consider the pincer movement against Ed the other weekend quite disgraceful. Ed is Labour's elected leader, and it appears some ex-ministers don't respect the democratic decision of the party. I for one will not trust David M again. If the people want to back stab their Leader, they should join the Conservatives. They are good at that.

    I fully support Ed, and any move to install an 'Heir to Blair' would be a disaster. We need to reflect on why so many working class voters left Labour. We need to understand why many ordinary folk thought that David Cameron's Conservatives were a better bet for them than Labour. Labour did not lose because of Gordon Brown – they lost because the public did not trust Labour, and thought them to be self serving and just interested in power without principle.

    The last time Labour really reviewed itself deeply was about 20 years ago. The world has moved on. So must Labour.

  2. Ed M is doing well..

    He is a chairperson not a president which the Blairites do loathe, but they need to get with the script...

  3. Ed Milliband is a joke and although I am a labour member & supporter I want a leader who is going to move the party forward. All that Ed milliband has done since he became leader has taken us back to the Neil Kinnock days!! There is no threat or challenge towards the conservative party at the moment. The Tories even said themselves there only threat is David Milliband, Ed simply got into leadership because of the union. I believe people should stop getting at- Tony Blair because although he made mistakes, he improved many things for the better and he did win 3 elections which I cannot see anyone in the shadow cabinet doing atm. I think the simple answer is to modernise yes. But also remember what works... and a slow start!??!?! He hasn’t started! And it’s not good enough.
    Someone for heaven’s sake get Ed out. We need a leader who is going to defend all classes in society and not make comments like.. 'I’m my own man' etc. because Ed.. No one cares!! I hope and pray labour win the next election but it’s pretty certain we won’t unless we have a leader that actually has testicles.
    The only people who are going on about the ‘blairites’ are Ed supporters…who quite frankly ‘need to get the script’ his methods are not working. I want to see the Tories under threat…at the moment watching PMQ’s is like watching that scene in bambi, where the mother lamb gets shot and everyone’s streaming in tears.
    When the Tories get in, in 2015 I will personally be blaming Ed, and all his followers for bringing this party down.