Monday, 27 July 2015

Naive, well meaning and behind the times

Ed Miliband's victory in the Labour Party leadership election of 2010 seems a long time ago now. (In fact, Ed Miliband seems a long time ago.) And the defeat of David Miliband in that contest seems to belong to a different world entirely.

On re-reading the newspapers of the time, however, I find that it's not that different at all - indeed much of it could come from today's news reports. Here are some quotes from David Miliband himself during the 2010 campaign:
Strong opposition, while necessary, is not sufficient. Simple opposition takes us back to our comfort zone as a party of protest, big in heart but essentially naive, well meaning but behind the times. This is the role our opponents want us to play.
I will tell you what the choice is very clearly. I am the person who can fire the imagination of the public as well as the party. I can unify the party. I'm the person who can lead us to beat the Tories in the battle of ideas. And I'm the person who is the most credible prime minister.
Unless we start wining back the Milton Keyneses, we'll never win power. We've got just ten seats out of 212 in the south, excluding London.
The tragedy of the 2010 election is that we ceded the mantle of progress and reform: the former on the issues of political change and inequality, the latter on public services and the economy. Despite huge achievements in government, we were trapped by Labour's demons of the 1980s when politics has moved on. 
Never again must Labour come to offer more and more but demand less and less. We must never again let the Conservatives claim the inheritance of the co-operative movement, mutual societies and the self-organised groups who built the Labour movement. we must be not just the defenders of the public sector, but its reformers.
That first quote, incidentally, about being naive, well meaning and behind the times was understood - correctly - by everyone as an attack on his brother, who was seen as a return to the good old principled days of Labour. Ed was the left insurgent back then. Didn't stop him from winning, of course. As I've said before, what a waste of five years that turned out to be.

And it's worth asking two questions: Would a Labour Party led by David Miliband have won the election this year? And would that have been a better option than a Conservative victory?
Just in passing: The 'comfort zone' line is being directed at Jeremy Corbyn right now, and I don't know that I care very much for the phrase. Particularly when it's coming from Tony Blair, whose life seems to me to be somewhat more comfortable than anything Corbyn will ever manage, even if he lives seven lifetimes. (Not that I'm saying he believes in reincarnation.)

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