The papers are full of it, the rumour mill begins, and questions are asked over Ed Miliband’s leadership. It was only a matter of time, but the left wing commentators and liberal elite are now beginning to ask the same questions the right wing press have been asking for some time – Is Ed Miliband up to the job?
It was inevitable as the weeks went by without a policy in sight and his apparent lack lustre performance in the commons that questions would be asked over his leadership.
Now whispers are being aired behind his back in an almost Tory like way, where the name of the game is to keep switching leader until you get one palatable enough for the electorate to want to vote for you.
This is a modern phenomenon for the Labour Party, encouraged by the Blair/Brown years of back biting that may yet scupper any potential for a Labour Party revival.
In years gone by, the Labour machine was very loyal to it’s leaders, even after disastrous election defeats. The Tories on the other hand would never forgive such a poor showing.
Ed Miliband now has a job to do on two fronts. To create an effective opposition to the Tory led coalition and to unite and convince the labour party, an almost impossible task.
However, his job is made easier by the fact that too many candidates who want his job are tainted with the Blair /Brown legacy, and that he can fight the Tories AND Liberal Democrats on a united front – there is only ONE opposition party these days.
But are the back biters showing their discontent too soon? The elections in May were hardly disastrous, there are few sensible commentators who would argue that the SNP would obtain a similar landslide victory in a general election. In addition, is the Miliband parliamentary performance actually that bad?
On many occasions I have seen what I consider to be lacklustre performances by Ed Miliband at Prime Ministers questions only to be proved wrong a few days later when the topic over which he has pressed the prime minister leads to a policy u-turn or a resignation.
One problem in him asserting his authority over the coalition government is that David Cameron and co make so many U-turns how do you capitalise on them? The Tories have an opposition within their own government now that the Lib Dems were given a thrashing in the May elections. Every policy change or U-turn is being pounced upon by Nick Clegg as an offering to the people or his own party while Cameron desperately tries to convince people he is “listening” to either his own back benchers or the public.
There are however, several games to be played here. The first is the need for the Labour Party to win the next election or at least prevent the Tories from winning. This will be a tough task with only 29% of the vote at the last election. However, this is a long game. Five years to get it right. The idea that they will lay their cards on the table within the first 3 years is ridiculous. All this would do is play in to the government hands who will be able to gather enough ammunition to blow them apart with the right wing press on side, or they will take the policies like a thieving magpie and use them for their own ends in the way New labour did.
However, by delaying a roll out of a policy direction, it is hard to be an effective and coherent opposition. Just what is the alternative will be the cry, and with good reason.
It is a tough nut to crack but one the labour Party needs to be patient in its deliberations. A hasty session of navel gazing will only play into the hands of the coalition – a divided party will never be elected by a British electorate.
There of course is a “third way”, that is to produce a vision without the policy detail. Gordon Brown never had a vision and lacked coherence. Tony Blair had a fantastic vision that the public bought hook line and sinker, but just did not have the policies or delivery and was found wanting in many areas. Ed Miliband needs to provide a true alternative vision, and the type of radicalism that looks to the future while learning the mistakes of the past.
There is no point having policies for today, when in 4 years time when the general election will be fought the country and the world will be different and will require new policies. The Conservative party found this out when their economic policy fell apart following the party conference in 2008. Something many like to forget, as a course of voluntary amnesia.
I still believe that Ed Miliband will benefit by the somewhat mistaken Labour Party belief in loyalty to it’s leaders and will fight the next general election. But maybe, with the Blair/Brown years, the Labour party machine is becoming even more like the Tories, not just in policy, but in it’s cut throat need for success.
In the end, the question must be asked “does it matter”? What we are likely to get is another quasi Tory agenda, dressed up in labour clothes, lurching further to the right, with outdated economic mainstream policies. But I would like to be proved wrong.