What Ed Miliband should say at Labour conference, but won’t

23 September 2011

It is now beyond question that Ed Miliband is moving his party to the left, or
redefining the centre ground if you prefer, or drawing a line under the New Labour era. Or whatever.

The latest symbolic move has been to back Palestinian statehood in advance of a vote at the UN. This is a peculiar decision that makes no real sense before knowing what the Palestinians are putting
on the table, except to send a strong message to the party faithful that Ed Miliband is shifting policy on the Middle East. This line on Israel/Palestine is one that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown
would never have countenanced and that is the whole point.

Ed Miliband is determined to ditch the legacy of the Blair-Brown era (which is odd considering that he is its creature) and I can’t help thinking this is a terrible strategic error.

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The opposition is hamstrung by the fact that it still hasn’t found the right language to take on the government. Miliband has squeezed himself into a tiny ideological sliver, where he
can’t move any further to the left for fear of inviting ridicule, but can’t entirely embrace the achievements of the Blair-Brown years either.

In welfare to work, education and health, the Cameroons are engaged in implementing the Blairite reform agenda. The logic of Ed Miliband in the new post-New Labour era should make it possible to
oppose this from the Left. But there are still too many Blairites around him to quite pull this off. With Liam Byrne in charge of the policy review it will be impossible to dump the New Labour
policy agenda in its entirety.

Instead of trying to persuade people that Cameron is a Thatcherite in disguise, Labour should concentrate on questioning the Tories’ competence in government. Ed Miliband’s conference
speech should recognise that all the most adventurous ideas of the new government are stolen from New Labour and give them a cautious welcome. He should then say that the job of opposition is to
forensically examine the government’s record on delivery and stand back.

He won’t do this, of course, because to embrace the Blairite legacy would mean immediate death within the party.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Nice thought.

  • BigMax

    Martin, you seem to talk about a Palestinian state as if it was a bad thing. It’s a strange irony that has a supporter of Israel denying others the right to their own state.

    And I don’t think they knew what the Jewish settlers were bringing to the table in 1948 either. That didn’t stop them back then.

  • Noa.

    Erica Blair – 2.48pm

    Did you Martin? respect!

    note to diary – ask daughters about twitting thing and whether it could replace the telegram boy…

  • John Edwards

    Since when has supporting a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders been a “terrible strategic error” rather than the obvious solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict supported by the rest of the world except Israel and the United States?

  • Erica Blair

    Bright writes this column, then tweets

    Martin Bright
    Eve of Labour Party conference and I couldn’t be less interested #labconf
    25 Sep via Echofon

    What a twister!

  • Archibald

    You’re right Erica. But be careful, Martin is even more powerful than you imagine, which is why as a left-wing commentator he writes here to a group of people who usually disagree with what he says and give him lots of abuse. That’s how the Israelis are – they take the last person you’d suspect to have any influence and reach, discount him, and secretly employ someone who wouldn’t even make it on to the ‘last person’ list. This time next year, we’ll all be fanatical pro-Israeli mouthpieces unless we take steps now to defend ourselves. I hope you, like I do, wear a special hat made out of aluminium kitchen foil, so he can’t take control of your mind with the subliminal in-blog messaging. He thinks we haven’t noticed that the title of this blog just happens to contain all the letters of ‘Israel’. Coincidence? Not likely.

  • Erica Blair

    You don’t like the truth, do you. Ask Martin Bright about his Israel-funded trips to the Herzliya conference where he learns the Likud party line.

  • Baron

    I’m disbanding the party for the damage it has done in the years of B&B to this once great country.

    and another thing:

    Erica, you sure you were awake, facing in the right direction when you penned the 5.53 posting?

  • Tarka the Rotter

    “Labour should concentrate on questioning the Tories’ competence in government.”

    What? After what they did? Bwwwwwwahhhhaaaahhhaaahhaaahhhaaahhhhhaaaaaa

  • Archibald

    I think you make some interesting points Martin.

    In seemingly moving to distance himself from Blair/Brown, Miliband appears to be avoiding the difficult decisions for short term benefit. This is also evidenced by the distancing of himself from Maurice Glasman after Glasman said things about immigration that perhaps the party didn’t want to hear. You have to wonder if such a strategy will work for much longer.

    I enjoyed the review of ‘The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox’ in the LRB, ( as it had an interesting insight into the influence and thinking of Glasman, but it seems that Blue Labour died before it even got off the floor because of Glasman’s views – although perhaps with this new ‘Purple Book’ out now Glasman’s influence will return more from the outside. However, the Labour approach to policy appears to be that nothing is off the table, unless it’s something that might be a bit messy to bring up with the more hardcore party members.

    I’m not a Labour supporter, but I think Blair despite his many errors in certain fields was the ‘man with the plan’ for Labour as far as vote winning policies and the ability to create a proper vision for a country. I just can’t ever see Ed Miliband following Blair’s path. However, his brother would, so perhaps in the long term it’s best for Labour if Ed fizzles out over the next year or so and David can emerge as the leader. As well as being more naturally of the centre, he also shows signs, such as his chastising of Harman last year, that he has much more stomach for the fight – both within the party and externally.

    Incidentally Martin, Glasman also wanted to open up a dialogue with the EDL, goodness only knows how that went down with some Labour members. However, I think it’s the right thing to do, as the difficult choices often are – it’s only through brave arguments over EDL ideology, much of which is a bizarrely misappropriated list of grievances, that such extremists can be defeated and shown for what they are. The easy option is to turn away and leave some often legitimate grievances untouched as their very mention has become tainted by being cobbled together into EDL ideology. Surely it would be better to reclaim legitimate grievance for mainstream debate and rubbish the drivel it is couched in, or indeed the very fact that it is even claimed as a grievance by a group like the EDL in the first place. If only someone like yourself would take this challenge up, Martin, few others I think have the balls for it.

  • Alan Scott

    I do hope the Labour people take this advice very seriously. That should settle their basket of rotten apples for good.

  • Erica Blair

    Disgusting, Bright claims to be on the left but adopts the Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu line on Palestine membership of the UN. he’s just the mouthpiece of the Israeli foreign ministry with Avigdor Lieberman as his ultimate boss.

  • Noa.

    “where he can’t move any further to the left for fear of inviting ridicule, but can’t entirely embrace the achievements of the Blair-Brown years…”

    I can accept your first point, just. Though “ridicule” is perhaps, too otiose a word to describe the comment which would flow to milli-plonk. But, other than, perhaps, not joining the Euro, can you really identify any achievement at all from the wretched B-B administration?

  • donpatrico

    Poor chap. It’s jolly difficult isn’t it?

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