Backing Ed

Like a lot of Labour Party members and activists, I’m angry and confused at the moment.  I’m angry that with the Tory Party in disarray, losing MPs to UKIP and humiliated in Europe once again as a direct result of its fear of UKIP, the media focus appears to be all about Labour’s leadership “crisis”.  And I’m confused because, with millions in poverty while working ever-longer hours, with some of the worst child poverty rates in the developed world, with hundreds of thousands of people dependent on food banks, and with our National Health Service being dismantled in front of our eyes, you might have thought that the handful of Labour MPs briefing anonymously against Ed could have found something more useful with which to fill their day.

While our anonymous comrades were busy talking to the media, I spent yesterday in an activists’ day here in Brighton Pavilion, in a room full of local people – and later on the doorstep – working to elect Purna Sen as Pavilion’s next MP: to elect a serious, achieving, grounded, local Labour MP with a passion for social justice and a track-record of effecting real change.  And to elect a Labour Government capable of turning the tide, and to elect a Labour council in place of a party that claims to be radical but whose Council leader recently claimed that 40% child poverty in Brighton’s poorest wards was “on target”. A day spent with people who, in Green Brighton, are fed up with the politics of grandstanding and want – passionately – to get things done and bring about change.

We have the right to expect better from the briefers – the anonymous MPs and the SPAD commisariat who know nothing outside the Westminster bubble. Perhaps they should come and talk to the people who spent yesterday afternoon pushing leaflets through doors in one of Brighton’s less horizontal districts (I’m not complaining, the company was as invigorating as the wind was bracing, and the views were terrific).

Put simply, it was Ed Miliband that brought me back to Labour.  Not just because of his obvious decency and seriousness of purpose and intellectual depth – contrasting with the weak, shallow, blustering PR man currently occupying No 10 – and his moral courage in taking on the tabloid press to defend his father’s memory and reputation; but because I saw Ed’s leadership asking the big questions about wealth and poverty, and about who an economy should work for; taking on the big cartels of the energy companies, expressing a willingness to intervene in markets and challenge the ideology of the market.  As I’ve argued here before, there is such a thing as Milibandism – and it is something that has the potential to change Britain immeasurably for the better. Is that what the anonymous briefers – and especially their facilitating friends in the media – are afraid of?

We should never underestimate what Labour achieved in office from 1997-2010 – especially in promoting social justice and in investing in health and education, in tackling child poverty; the unglamorous, un-newsworthy things that are the warp and weft of a decent society.  By the same token, we shouldn’t forget – and fail to learn – from the mistakes (and I speak as a Council candidate in a ward where Labour canvassers still get called neoliberals and warmongers by well-heeled Green Party activists). But – having been a Labour member in the 1990s and left in disillusionment, ending up in the Green Party, I listened to Ed and felt that, after a time of ambiguity, Labour was regaining the confidence to be Labour again. And that was where I wanted to be.

Aneurin Bevan, at the end of his life, wrote: “Never underestimate the passion for unity in the party, and never forget that it is the decent instinct of people who want to do something.”  That passion has shown itself in a surge of social media support for Ed; yes, I know that social media are a very long way from being the whole story, but at least it’s a mouthpiece for those in the Party who are left out of media discourse; the decent, passionate people who do the heavy lifting of canvassing, organising – and, yes, tramping up steep hills on an inclement Saturday afternoon putting leaflets through doors.

The reasons why I want Ed in No 10 next May, Purna Sen as MP for Brighton Pavilion and a Labour Council in Brighton and Hove are all about values.  It sometimes seems to me that Ed’s main crime – in the eyes of the media certainly – is to encapsulate those values, and to be prepared to challenge the status-quo in pursuit of those values.

Oh, and if an anoymous briefer really is having difficulty in filling their day, I have a pile of leaflets waiting for delivery and we doorknock in my ward on Mondays and Wednesdays.


9 thoughts on “Backing Ed

  1. Excellent post, The disaffected, anonymous, MPs courted by the right wing press need to wake up to the fact that they are playing into the hands of the Tories. We need Ed Miliband as PM, five more years of Tories or a Tory led coalition will destroy the fabric of this country.

  2. Thank you; I completely agree with this excellent post (except for the bits about Brighton, but only because I don’t live there so can’t comment!)

  3. Well said! Just because the right wing loons across the media spectrum are out to protect their self interest through promoting the view that Ed’s bacon sandwich eating skills represent the best measure of his ability to run a fair and honest nation, it doesn’t mean that those of us who care passionately about equality in our society should stand idly by.

    Ed Miliband wasn’t my choice to lead the Labour Party, but he represents (by an enormous distance) the best option open to British society for a fair minded and socially responsible PM. It makes me sick that we’re following the US political system in a race to the bottom in terms of how spin and editorial bias is openly applauded, rather than having an informed and fact based campaign to decide who runs the country. I fear we’ll end up with the sort of PM that this low-brow approach to incredibly serious issues ultimately deserve due to the fact that nobody seems to question the media moguls motives in persistent (and wholly flawed) character assassinations of the only candidate proposing real change.

  4. Many thanks for a really interesting post. Rightly or wrongly, outside the enclave of party supporters, the Labour insistence on backing Ed looks positively suicidal, if not actively insulting to the electorate. I speak as a lifelong Labour supporter who is actively considering alternate options next May for the first time in my life.

    It is not just the awkwardness or the lack of mediagenic appeal. It is the outright failure to express an electable left-wing manifesto, or to present a coherent policy narrative in what ought to be the most benign opposition in Labour history. the current Conservative generation ought to have been a gift from heaven, instead of which we have seen one bungled opportunity after another.

    Today’s Labour movement ought to be a lightning-rod for those of us outraged by social injustice and inequality. Instead, it seems to be staggering around, punch-drunk and landing weak, responsive blows instead of shaping the agenda. This has to be laid at Milliband’s door, I’m afraid.

    There was a time around a year ago, when it would have been opportune to de-tox the situation by holding a Labour leadership race. This would either have re-confirmed the Party’s faith in Ed or brought forward a more credible candidate. Sadly, this opportunity was missed, and with it, I fear, the prospects for the next election will have been lost.

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