Not So Red Ed

Ross McKibbin · Ed Miliband

The election of Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party is surely not as surprising as much of the media suggests it was. He may have started at the back of the pack five months ago but any half-serious candidate to the left of David Miliband had a good chance. Diane Abbott, who is definitely to the left of David, was not a serious candidate, and Ed Balls, who is probably to his left, could not escape from his relationship with Gordon Brown. What’s really surprising is that David should be thought to have been an inevitable successor to Brown. The older Miliband is intelligent and personable but irredeemably associated with the failures of New Labour as well as its successes. He was there at the beginning, just as he was at the end and all the wrong turnings on the way. His three years as foreign secretary, while not as lowering as (say) Jack Straw’s tenure, do not suggest that he had any real idea why Labour had got itself into such a mess or that he was the man to get it out. And, of course, he supported the Iraq war: there was no getting away from that, while lucky Ed was not in Parliament at the time.

That David was thought to be the inevitable successor is an index of the degree to which a debased electoral opportunism still dominates the thinking of so many in the Parliamentary Labour Party. You would not guess from the often offensive language used by David’s anonymous parliamentary supporters who talked so freely to the press – the election of Ed showed that the Labour Party was now just ‘a party of losers’, one said – that the support of the ‘aspirational’ classes so dear to their hearts, if by them is meant marginal seats in Southern England, was lost while they were running the show. Furthermore, could either they or their candidate really have thought he could get the vote of the majority of individual trade unionists? These men and women did not vote as conspirators or as puppets of trade union bosses; they voted as members of working class or lower middle-class occupations that had not done conspicuously well from governments run by David’s friends. Ed, after all, had mentioned the words ‘minimum wage’ in his campaign.

Too much attention has been given to Ed’s success among the trade unions. In fact he had significant support in all three sections of the electoral college and is as broadly representative a leader as David would have been had he got that extra 1 per cent. As for the ‘Red Ed’ business, the notion that Ed’s cautious social democracy is ‘red’ demonstrates the extent to which a Thatcho-Blairite vocabulary still dominates our political language. And it exaggerates the difference between Ed and the other candidates. David, after all, is in favour of ending the charitable status of private schools and of a mansion tax, though neither of the prime ministers under whom he served was. Ed Balls wants a much more ‘left-wing’ programme of debt reduction than the one that is official Labour policy at the moment. Where Ed Miliband stands on debt reduction we do not know.

Ed will now be – already is – under a lot of pressure to disavow redness and conciliate the Tory press. He should not do that. Nothing will be gained from it, either electorally or politically, especially as we know so little about the immediate political future, while the notion that the ‘aspirational’ classes are necessarily hostile to the state or are raging for ‘choice’ is simply a myth. Many of Labour’s problems, in fact, are a result of Labour forcing ‘choice’ on people who did not want it – in education, for instance, or in health. And he shouldn’t adopt the Blairite tactic of trying to demonstrate that the Tories are ‘soft’ on crime or immigration. That never works and merely raises the electoral significance of crime or immigration. He should, for example, support Kenneth Clarke’s attempts to reduce the prison population, and to his credit he seems to be doing this. And he should resist the temptation, which, again to his credit he seems to be doing, to denounce the Lib Dems, a traditional Labour Party sport which has got them nowhere. He has also said he will support AV. He may encourage the Labour Party as a whole to support it as well. He is, in fact, in a position to do some of those ‘modernising’ things that New Labour said it would do but never did. As to how he re-establishes his relationship with his brother, that is something about which outsiders can say or do little. But perhaps David himself should have been readier to contemplate the possibility that he might lose than he appears to have been.


  • 30 September 2010 at 9:30am
    Joe Morison says:
    My fear is that we'll see the sort of character assassination on him by the right wing media that we saw on Kinnock (i wonder if they'll manage to get some oh so subtle anti-semitism into their toxic mix), the coalition will win the next election, and the 'lesson' the Labour party will learn (have drummed into it by the right wing media) is that it is only with a leader from the extreme right of the party that they have any hope of being elected. And who will be waiting on the back benches with a barely contained 'I told you so'? Step forward David.

    • 30 September 2010 at 12:07pm
      pinhut says: @ Joe Morison
      The media reaction is, on the whole, laughable, as to be expected. It's like my dad used to joke while the wrestling was on - "Kent Walton is the only man in Britain who doesn't know this is fixed..."

      The Spiked guy has a decent take.

    • 30 September 2010 at 12:55pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ pinhut
      The Spiked guy is completely negative, cynical. It's too easy and has no value.

    • 30 September 2010 at 2:08pm
      pinhut says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      In this case, I believe cynicism is justified.

      And, to be fair to him,

      "This leadership contest revealed how utterly adrift Labour is. It took place in an almost perfectly sealed political vacuum, where the concerns or thoughts of the public made no impact whatsoever. Why would they, when the modern Labour Party and its various cliques have only the most perfunctory relationship with ‘ordinary people’ (as they call us)? Instead, this was a decadent, neo-aristocratic affair, with various party grouplets shifting their allegiances around for no clear or rational reason, while media insiders sought to provide a political personality and narrative for Ed."

      That strikes me as a valid description of the process. Come on, Betfair has been the arbiter of this race, rather than any genuine policy discussion.

    • 30 September 2010 at 3:55pm
      Joe Morison says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      The cynicism may be justified - after all, we've been consistently let down by our politicians since Roy Jenkins was Home Secretary. All the same, i don't think it's right: Miliband is at least saying the right stuff - it's not his fault that modern politics takes place in a vacuum. We could join that chap who had "an alternative campaigning platform for the left [...] well in hand" and nobly tilt at windmills, or we can give up in despair; they seem the only alternatives to at least hoping that he means what he says (i think he does) and will be able act on those beliefs (which is much less likely).

      'Politics is the art of the possible' and i'd rather see Miliband as PM than any other person who's around and who has any chance of reaching that office.

    • 30 September 2010 at 4:46pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ pinhut
      Okay, Spiked guy can be cynical, although it won't get us anywhere, but he ought to be positive at a time like this. Why doesn't he discuss some policies himself? He'll probably only get to do it three or four times in his lifetime, so he should make the most of it. Spiked guy can go ahead and say that Ed's got no apparent policies, but then he could add that Ed's appointing commissions to invent policies. He might suggest that the commissions dig up Labour ideas that are vote winners as well as being cheap: abolishing public schools, reforming the House of Lords, maybe even nuclear disarmament.

    • 30 September 2010 at 5:25pm
      Joe Morison says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      I'm prepared to suspend my cynicism, AJP, but not to get on first name terms: for the moment his brother is an irrelevance, 'Miliband' will do.

    • 1 October 2010 at 3:07am
      pinhut says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      "Ought to be positive"

      Why? Isn't this empty display of 'leader fetishism' precisely the sort of thing to engender deep despair. I hate this idea, passionately, that a single person assuming 'the top job' somehow marks off the end of one era and the beginning of another. But it suits the way those in power want us to think, for example, that Ed Miliband's not being an MP at the time of the Iraq war vote somehow means 'a line has been drawn' under Iraq, etc.

      How much is different when precisely the same faces, with the same records, are there? A Jack Straw, a Harriet Harman, etc. If Ed Miliband can tolerate these people being in his party then his church is so broad as to contain exactly all the same craven viewpoints as previously. ie: Nothing at all has changed.

    • 1 October 2010 at 10:50am
      Joe Morison says: @ pinhut
      Leaders can make a difference and make for a new beginning, that's what Blair did with New Labour. If it can happen in a bad direction then why not in a good one?

    • 1 October 2010 at 4:06pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ Joe Morison
      Any examples? I'd like to hear them.

    • 1 October 2010 at 6:09pm
      Joe Morison says: @ Geoff Roberts
      So would i. I'm sure there must be some; if Blair managed to so turn his party in the wrong direction, someone somewhere must have led their party in the right one.

  • 30 September 2010 at 12:39pm
    outofdate says:
    When I was 17 (bear with me) I worked for one day in a sunglass shop, filling in for a friend who said it would be easy money, just sitting around reading a book. And it would have been, except the owner came in at one point and made a great to-do -- the shop was only about the size of a loo -- harrassing the sole customer, holding up first one pair, then the other, all unsuitable, and jabbering like one one possessed, until the poor woman backed out trembling and took her business somewhere else, at which point the owner turns to me and goes triumphantly, 'And that is how we expect you to serve our customers!' Needless to say I went back to reading my book, and at the end of the day she took a weary look at the tally and found I'd 'sold' something like 1,000 quid's worth of shades, simply by leaving the customer the hell alone. I'll treasure the look she gave me to my dying day.

    The point is, the point is: nobody knows what the punter wants, least of all those who claim to know. But being an expert myself now, here's my tuppenceworth for Ed whateverhisnameis: try drawing no attention to yourself. Keep quiet. Shut whenever you can the fuck up. Everything else has inevitably led to disaster, just try it, what have you got to lose? You're never going to prime minister, so at least leave people in peace.

  • 30 September 2010 at 5:10pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    We won't really know how he's going to perform until the run up to the next election. In opposition he can make all the right noises, promise to consider abolishing the nuclear 'weapons' - (who are they aimed at now, I wonder, hopefully at Putin.) He might also promise to look at abolishing the Lords as well, but aprt from that he should read very carefully Outofdate's post here and do exactly that - won't harm anybody and it will keep that reactionary fossil Murdoch off his back.

    • 30 September 2010 at 6:26pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Geoff Roberts
      What good is electing someone who's too scared to have any policies?

      What about education? After 1965, Tony Crosland ("If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland") ruined the working class's chance of a good education; I can't understand why Labour never took on the upper classes and the public schools.

      What about the royal family? Even if the queen is still fairly popular no one likes the rest of them. Labour could cut off all their money and keep the queen confined to, say, Windsor. Open the rest of the properties to the public.

    • 1 October 2010 at 7:54am
      Geoff Roberts says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      "What about the royal family?" Aren't there some bigger issues that Labour should think about? One of the really big probles was the decision to let the bankers do whatever they want - any sign of a turnround on that one? I think that Labour needs to look at education and come up with some radical solutions. Yes, abolish public schools as institutions, open Oxbridge up, totally revise the technical educational 'system.' Then they can take on the police forces, the prison system, regulate the whole town planning system ...

    • 3 October 2010 at 2:06pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Geoff Roberts
      Geoff: “What about the royal family?” Aren’t there some bigger issues that Labour should think about?

      Possibly, but so what? It's not either the royal family or education; Labour can have policies for both. I'm really sick of the Labour party burying questions about Britain's class structure. It's incumbent on Labour to get rid of the queen, the Brigade of Guards, the public schools, fox hunting, all that anachronistic classbound crap. It's Labour's responsibility, no other party's going to do it.

  • 1 October 2010 at 3:02am
    pinhut says:
    "I can’t understand why Labour never took on the upper classes and the public schools."

    The closest they came was the ban on hunting with dogs.

    New Labour's policy was clear, and reflected in the expansion of Higher Education, for example, and in Blair's statement that 'everyone wants to be middle class'.

    The idea was that all progress can happen without those who presently enjoy marked social advantages being required to make too much by way of sacrifice. So it's not that Tarquin misses out on a place at Oxford so that Barry Backstreet can go, but that we build hundreds of new higher education institutions and Barry Backstreet can go off to one of them. See? It's fixed. There is now more 'opportunity' to talk of, there are now statistics that show, 100%, that more working-class people are attending university and so on.

    Punish the upper classes? Labour can't even find the balls to punish the middle classes.

    • 1 October 2010 at 6:46am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ pinhut
      Thanks, Pin. Now I see what happened. That Labout didn't address the class issue is shameful, especially considering the public-school & Oxbridge background of so many of its leaders (Atlee, Gaitskell, Crossman, Crosland, Williams & Owen, Foot, Benn, Blair -- just off the top of my head). There's no reason why they can't deal with it now, though.

    • 1 October 2010 at 7:08am
      pinhut says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Out of office, they can 'deal' with anything!

    • 1 October 2010 at 7:34am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ pinhut
      Better that they deal with it out of office than that they continue to ignore it. The same goes for the upper House & the royal family: he's renouncing New Labour, so now is the time to admit that abandoning Clause 4 didn't make Britain into a class society.

    • 1 October 2010 at 7:35am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      That should be "classless society".

    • 1 October 2010 at 9:19am
      pinhut says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      AJP - the point is, parties are strangely radical in opposition and strangely uniform in power.

      Example :

      "Saying no to the like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which could cost £100 billion. We will hold a full defence review to establish the best alternative for Britain’s future security."

      Now, where is that from?

      Here they are, voting against the same measure:

      And here they are, agitating not to not renew Trident, but to postpone the decision long enough that they can go into the next election using their opposition to renewal because : "We want to go into it with a clear difference on this."

      Parties in opposition will say anything they like, confident that not too many people actually read their manifestos (I do)

    • 1 October 2010 at 11:09am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ pinhut
      Yes, parties are strangely radical in opposition and strangely uniform in power, but it's no solution just to remark on it. You're saying there's no point in having policies, because Labour never follows through on its promises, Edward Pearce is saying "better the schmuck who didn't vote for the war than the one who did", and Spiked guy is saying "You can't fool me, the Labour party has a perfunctory relationship with ordinary people".

      Out Of date & Geoff Roberts say Labour ought to pretend to have no policies -- this so they don't stand out from the coalition. It's basic conservatism, which is usually thought of as a Tory policy, and it's saying that the party doesn't need to have any principles that it's willing to make public. Labour would also be in a position if they were to win an election that they wouldn't have a mandate to do anything.

      I'm saying that this would be the perfect time to lay out where the Labour party should go from here. Acknowledging that New Labour is over is a step in the right direction. Ed Milibands "committees" might be the next step. Implementing the policies after an election, if they're any good, might be a third step. If Obama can get a health care bill through in the US, no matter how watered-down, anything is possible. It takes a hundred years to accomplish anything significant in politics (abolition of slavery, right to vote, united independent Ireland even longer). Tony Blair's idea about how we're all middle class now isn't even an issue twenty years later. The issue today is the difference between us and the third world: starvation, disease and global warming. So the sooner we start the sooner we'll finish.

    • 1 October 2010 at 12:35pm
      outofdate says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      You flatter me; I really do mean he should shut up. I don't care what Labour's politics are, or whether they have any. They just need to be very, very quiet for a very, very long time.

      I refer you to user:pinhut passim on the question whether we need a loyal opposition to keep the farce going, and in case you can't be bothered I refer you to the answer, which is no.

    • 1 October 2010 at 1:43pm
      Joe Morison says: @ outofdate
      Abandon democracy? Yes, it's pretty shitty but what are you going to put in its place?

    • 3 October 2010 at 10:24am
      pinhut says: @ Joe Morison
      "I’m saying that this would be the perfect time to lay out where the Labour party should go from here."

      Yes, and I believe the place the Labour Party should go is into the history books. It should be abolished. The centuries-long 'traditions' of the main parties is at the centre of the problems, ie: structural.

    • 3 October 2010 at 11:15am
      outofdate says: @ Joe Morison
      Horse has bolted, I'm afraid. What to put in its place? I've always rather favoured a system that more emphatically favours me, especially in the matter of the stipend, but let me get back to you about the particulars.

  • 1 October 2010 at 10:10am
    aisia says:
    What the Spiked guy has to say is often illuminating, and this is a case in point. It takes, however, high resolve and strength of heart to extricate from the shrill nihilism of the messenger what wisdom might be in the message. Jenny Turner was good on this gang a while back.

    On education, I agree entirely that radical solutions are required and Ed had better get to work. I fear, though, that he will to think a little further than the platitudes on offer here. Abolishing the public schools won't cut it, unless perhaps as a difficult decision of last resort: what is needed is a way to bring an end to the two-socio-economically-divided-tier system while also retaining as best as we are able the outstanding resources of the higher tier within the new system. And talk of 'opening up Oxbridge' is either meaningless or depressing: the opening up of Oxbridge will be one vital result of substantial reform to the education system. Admissions tutors are trying to do the best they can for their institutions and their candidates, but as Stefan Collini argued in '03, 'it is absurd to think that universities can unilaterally correct for the effects of a class-divided society'. The three problems here are how to get in the students best suited to the course, in terms of potential and desire, regardless of background; to even up, in general, the life prospects of the sorts of people who are called Tarquin and the sorts called Barry; and to even up, in general, the life prospects of those who go to Oxbridge and those who don't.

    • 1 October 2010 at 11:07am
      pinhut says: @ aisia
      The above comment might make more sense if thirteen years of a Labour government had not just ended.

      There may be good reason to have a debate on Higher Ed, but it clearly can't include the Labour Party as the ultimate authority that will be trusted to implement change.

      All they did was cement the continued generation of heavily indebted graduates under an ethos where Increasing Access = Creating Second-Rate Capacity.

    • 1 October 2010 at 1:44pm
      Joe Morison says: @ pinhut
      Is that Higher Ed as opposed to Lower Dave?

  • 1 October 2010 at 10:26am
    aisia says:
    I meant to say that /just/ abolishing the public schools won't cut it: it's not sufficient even as a response to the public school question. Collini on the universities is here:

    • 1 October 2010 at 11:15am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ aisia
      I meant to say that /just/ abolishing the public schools won’t cut it: it’s not sufficient even as a response to the public school question.

      I don't follow you.

  • 1 October 2010 at 11:45am
    aisia says:
    pinhut: Yes, Labour has failed to take up the opportunities of thirteen years in power here, and, probably, we can't trust them to do good work. But if we were to engage is some wishful thinking for a moment, and supposed that Ed M was out to do something right, one way to do it would be to tackle education. Certainly there should be a discussion about it, and, provided that they acknowledged their failings, I think it would be rather irresponsible for Labour not to participate.

    A.J.P - The problem of the public schools is, as I said, that of bringing an end to the two-socio-economically-divided-tier system while also retaining as best as we are able the outstanding resources of the higher tier within the new system. Abolishing the public schools deals with the first part of the problem, but not the second. If there's nothing we can do about the second part, and we decide that, ultimately, it is a lesser concern, then so be it, but the whole problem must be considered and it is the whole problem we must try, at least, to solve.

    • 1 October 2010 at 12:30pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ aisia
      'it is absurd to think that universities can unilaterally correct for the effects of a class-divided society’. The three problems here are how to get in the students best suited to the course, in terms of potential and desire, regardless of background; to even up, in general, the life prospects of the sorts of people who are called Tarquin and the sorts called Barry; and to even up, in general, the life prospects of those who go to Oxbridge and those who don’t.

      You're aware, are you, that about half of every sixth form from St. Paul's and Westminster get places at Oxbridge and US ivy-league schools? Fees are about £23,000 /year.

  • 1 October 2010 at 1:07pm
    aisia says:
    That's a problem of course, but one to be solved /by/ radical reform of the education system. Opening up Oxbridge is an end, and only one, of such a process; it is not going to be one of the principal means. Those are two highly selective schools which teach their pupils to an exceptional standard, and it is no surprise that their candidates are often among the best in any field of applicants. What is an admissions officer to do?

    • 1 October 2010 at 2:38pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ aisia
      The point is that it shouldn't be up to the admissions officer, it should be resolved by a Labour government closing the public schools -- and I say Labour because Osborne went to St. Paul's, Clegg to Westminster and Cameron to Eton and I haven't heard that they're planning to shut this racket down.

  • 1 October 2010 at 4:02pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    Thanks AJP - exactly my point. Surely, the beauty of the British political system to its members is that it's self-perpetuating. The days are gone when a Tory cabinet was made up entirely of public school/Oxbridge fellers, but the hold of the public schools and the older unversities on the ministeries, the civil service and all the other Establishment pillars is still a headlock.

  • 1 October 2010 at 4:13pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    Here are those iconoclasts from Libdem land on the need for change:
    "Senior Liberal Democrats are increasingly confident they will secure a delay to approving the renewal of Britain's £20bn Trident nuclear weapons system until after the general election, which is due in May 2015." From that Independent link above. Wow, hold on, 'secure a delay' to 'approving the renewal' - that sounds like a victory for the Left!!!
    Next: Libdems plan to consider a debate on the possibility of a limit to the potential size of bankers' bonuses!!

    • 1 October 2010 at 6:18pm
      pinhut says: @ Geoff Roberts
      Think you missed (?) the post of mine above on the Lib Dem Trident wiggling (or maybe this is a misplaced reply, this thread is going haywire.

    • 2 October 2010 at 6:14am
      Geoff Roberts says: @ pinhut
      1 October, 10.19? Yes, I missed it on the way down. Agree completely.

    • 2 October 2010 at 11:03am
      ober says: @ Geoff Roberts
      So let me get this straight. Party campaigns in election against renewing Trident (and is attacked by both Tories and Labour for arguing that case). Party then becomes heavily outnumbered minority member of a governing coalition. Party therefore cannot implement its policy of scrapping Trident against the policy of its much bigger coalition partner, but does nonetheless push hard to try and at least postpone the go-ahead for renewal so that the issue remains in play at the following election. In other words: they campaigned against Trident renewal and they are still trying to prevent Trident renewal.

      You seem to regard that as an example of hypocrisy and betrayal. I can't see it.

      I agree - of course - that there is usually some difference between what parties say in opposition and what they end up doing in government. That's just a fact of life. But I think you misunderstand and/or misrepresent the actions of a minority coalition party, with limited room for manoeuvre. This should in no way be equated with Labour's protracted failure to deliver on the sort of policies that many commentators here seem to expect from it, despite having an enormous, artificially inflated parliamentary majority and all the massive power that accrues to such a government under Britain's uncodified constitution.

    • 3 October 2010 at 10:27am
      pinhut says: @ ober
      You didn't read the links, did you?

      The Lib Dems have voted against amendments in the Scottish parliament to abolish Trident. They did not have to.

      Back at Westminster, they consider their scrapping Trident such a winning position (in opposition) that they wish to preserve it (!) by postponing the decision on renewal until after the next election.

      "You seem to regard that as an example of hypocrisy and betrayal. I can’t see it."

      Or won't see it?

    • 3 October 2010 at 11:27am
      ober says: @ pinhut
      pinhut, i saw one link in your post above from 10.19 on 1 October. That linked to an Independent article discussing how Lib Dems were pushing within government for policies that they had supported during the election, including re Trident and the immigration cap.

      You say that in not scrapping Trident immediately, they have committed some sort of u-turn; you argue that this amounts to a deliberate "wish to preserve it".

      This misrepresents the situation. The Lib Dems are a minority partner in coalition, heavily outnumbered in Parliament (not least because the electoral system underrepresents them). The Tories are much the bigger coalition partner in Parliament and they have the opposite policy on Trident - they want to renew it. There is therefore no realistic hope in hell of Trident being scrapped this Parliament. That leaves two options:

      1. Renew Trident now - Tory policy.

      2. Postpone renewal - i.e. not implement Tory policy. Postponing means that Trident may still be scrapped, but doesn't guarantee it (it depends on the outcome of the next election).

      Lib Dems are pushing for option 2. They haven't won yet, and they may well lose, but it looks as if they are at least still trying to deliver as much of their policy as they can.

      Similarly, they seem to be doing their best to scrap or at least relax the Tories' immigration cap (witness Cable's recent efforts to rally business opposition to it - opposition which may actually carry some weight with the Tories).

      None of this is particularly earth-shattering or inspiring, granted. But I don't think the Lib Dems have been particularly inconsistent on Trident (though they are much more vulnerable to that charge on other issues...).

      As for the Scottish parliament vote: I didn't see any linked article on that, so I can't comment in detail. If Lib Dems did vote against a motion to scrap Trident, my guess is that this was to do with political manouevring within that Parliament. Since defence and foreign policy are expressly "reserved matters" where power remains with Westminster, the Scottish Parliament would not be able to scrap Trident and so any vote would have been some sort of stunt.

    • 3 October 2010 at 3:42pm
      pinhut says: @ ober
      "they wish to preserve it"

      I am talking about preserving the option to not renew it, not about Trident itself.

      I can't find the link to the Scots story, but it is the case that the Lib Dems decided not to participate in an amendment tabled by Greens and others, apparently because, though they had a manifesto commitment to scrap Trident, their new agreement with the Tories not to vote against renewal now takes precedent.

      So, the outcome of this is that their 'scrap Trident' manifesto commitment is now :

      1) agree to Tory demand not to vote against renewal
      2) try to postpone decision on renewal so they can go into 2015 opposing Trident, because, this will be 'a clear difference' - their words

      I am not against the Lib Dems, but how you can argue that they are being 'consistent' begs the question: consistent in what respect? Consistent now, with the line they have adopted? Or consistent with their manifesto commitment, which was rather clear - do not renew - Or, if you are living in a parallel universe, perhaps you feel they are consistent in every respect.

    • 3 October 2010 at 4:37pm
      ober says: @ pinhut
      As I said, the Scottish Parliament doesn't have the legislative power to do anything about Trident; that's a matter reserved to Westminster under the devolution settlement. So the motion would have been of no practical use; the only effect (presumably intended) would have been to generate a few headlines about a coalition split. From the Lib Dems' point of view, why incur that political cost within the coalition when they would get absoutely no policy concession from it? Better to pick fights where there is actually some chance of a gain.

      Re their main position on Trident: I can only reiterate what I said above. They do not have the political numbers necessary to definitively rule out renewal in this Parliament, so that's not going to happen. Hopefully, they are at least going to keep the option of scrapping it alive by postponing the decision. If it is postponed, it won't just be because that's what the Lib Dems want: I think in reality there are Tories too who would secretly not mind postponement, since they know it is a waste of money - they just could never admit that in public. But if Trident is postponed, the presence in coalition of the Lib Dems will have been the decisive factor: a majority Tory government - or a majority Labour one - would find it much harder to roll back from the decision to renew in this Parliament, however profligate. So I think (and hope) that that could be a real gain for the coalition and I don't think the Lib Dems' treatment of the issue is purely cynical.

    • 4 October 2010 at 11:01am
      pinhut says: @ ober
      We'll just have to differ. If the price of being 'in government' was to abandon various key components of the Lib Dem manifesto, what was the point? Perhaps they should have taken a plebiscite of their support if they were going to be such weak partners. As it is, all they have really achieved is keeping Labour out of power and destroying their own popular support, along with increasing dissent inside their own ranks (stage-managed away, as ever).

  • 1 October 2010 at 11:15pm
    Oliver Rivers says:
    Too much attention has been given to Ed’s success among the trade unions. In fact he had significant support in all three sections of the electoral college and is as broadly representative a leader as David would have been had he got that extra 1 per cent.

    This is a statement on which reasonable people might decide to disagree, given the somewhat arcane way in which Labour chooses its leader. In particular, if the system was more proportionate Dave would have won, and the reported voting figures almost certainly overstate Ed's degree of non-union support quite substantially.

    Members of affiliate organisations (including the unions) may vote in the leadership election, and if someone is a member of multiple affiliate organisations then that person may vote multiple times. For example an acquaintance of mine received and used, quite legitimately, five sets of ballot papers. One consequence (presumably deliberate) of this is that union members who also belong to the Party are, to put it politely, oversampled in the electoral college, since they can get their votes counted in both the constituency and the union sections of the poll. Calling this system OMOV seems a little quaint; VEVO might be more honest.

    It's impossible to calculate accurately what the consequences of this bodge are without knowing how many voters actually voted multiple times. But one can in a back of a fag packet way get a feel for what the impact has been.

    The Guardian helpfully provides details of votes cast in each section of the ballot (MP and MEPs, local Party members, affiliates). 127,331 votes were cast by constituency members, of which David got 69,210 and Ed got 58,121 (first and second preferences); 247,339 by members of unions and affiliate organisations, of which David got 99,530 and Ed got 147,809.

    Let's assume a) that two out of every three U&A voters is a member of two affiliate organisations (given my multi-affiliate friend of a friend, that seems not unreasonable), and that b) 25% of U&A voters are also Party members (the higher the percentage we assume are Party members, the better Dave will do as we reallocate votes). Then there are actually 164,892 (= 247,339 / 1.5) U&A voters, of whom 41,223 (= 164,892 * 25%) are also Party members.

    Under a truly OMOV system those 41,223 voters would not be voting in the constituency section of the electoral college. What happens if we deduct them in due proportion from the votes each candidate received from constituency members? The total number of constituency votes is now 86,108 (= 127,331 - 41,223). David received 40% of the U&A votes, so his constituency votes total falls by 16,599 (= 41,223 * 40%) to 52,622. Ed received 60% of the union votes, so his constituency votes total falls by 24,635 (= 41,223 * 60%) to 33,486.

    David now has 61% (= 52,622 / 86,108) of constituency votes, and Ed 39% (= 33,486 / 86,108). The constituency vote is one third of the electoral college, so the contribution made by the constituency section to David's total share of the electoral college is now 20% (= 61% * 33.3%), while Ed's is 13% (= 39% * 33.3%).

    In other words, if Labour had a voting system which lived up to its name (OMOV, ha), David would have won. He'd have 17.8% from MP and MEPs and 13.4% from U&As, as before, and 20% from the constituencies, for a total of 51.57%, a slightly wider margin of victory than that enjoyed by his brother.

    If you think that the assumption that only 25% of U&As are party members is cautious, then increasing it to 50% has a fairly pronounced effect; David now has 57.96% of the vote.

    The main conclusions one can draw from this somewhat tortuous exercise are that Ed won only because the leadership election mechanism disproportionately enfranchises union members, and that same inbuilt bias overstates the extent of Ed's support among constituency members, probably by a quite substantial margin. We're landed with the wrong Miliband.

    • 2 October 2010 at 6:15am
      Geoff Roberts says: @ Oliver Rivers
      Any Milliband is a wrong Milliband. Bring back Keir Hardie

    • 2 October 2010 at 10:34am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Geoff Roberts
      Or the Glenn Miliband*.

      *(News Quiz joke.)

    • 3 October 2010 at 10:29am
      pinhut says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      I want them to come up with policies that make me as rich as them.

      Who would have thought daddy's Marxism paid this well?

    • 3 October 2010 at 10:39am
      pinhut says: @ Oliver Rivers
      You never seem able to come up with anything coherent.

      "Ed won only because the leadership election mechanism disproportionately enfranchises union members, and that same inbuilt bias overstates the extent of Ed’s support among constituency members, probably by a quite substantial margin. We’re landed with the wrong Miliband."

      Inbuilt bias!

      What about the fact that the Labour Party has more than 200,000 people eligible to vote for its leader and yet the weighting is that MP/MEPs votes account for 1/3 of the result, despite them being a tiny number. Is that fair? (ie: it's completely arguable).

      You don't manage to actually look at the underlying assumptions. Instead, you find something that may appear anomalous in the voting procedure, the casting of multiple votes, and decide that this, and this alone, decides the result 'wrongly' in favour of Ed Miliband.

    • 3 October 2010 at 12:43pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ pinhut
      Having glanced that that Mail article it sounds as if je inherited a lot of property and cash, which could happen to any one. (Just about)

    • 4 October 2010 at 10:16am
      Oliver Rivers says: @ pinhut
      Sorry not to make my point clearer. McKibben's claim is that Ed enjoyed significant support in all sections of the electoral college. However, once one takes account of the fact that some members--notable trades unionists--have multiple votes, then Ed's actual level of support in the constituency section of the college was likely lower, probably by a sizeable margin, than it appears. My (admittedly crude) calculations suggested that the spread in the constituency section could have been as much as 20 ppt in Dave's favour. That doesn't look like "significant support" for Ed to me.

    • 4 October 2010 at 3:22pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Oliver Rivers
      What's the point of all this? You want David Miliband to be the next Labour PM? It's not going to happen.

    • 4 October 2010 at 5:35pm
      Oliver Rivers says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Well, there's (at least) one reason for caring. Knowing how much actual support Ed got might be some kind of guide as to how united and enthusiastic the Party's going to be over the next five years. The stronger his actual mandate (i.e., stripping out distortions arising from the weirdly Byzantine electoral process), the more enthused and united one might presume the Party to be.

      I also think that's an important enough question to warrant spending some time doing proper analysis.

    • 4 October 2010 at 7:53pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Oliver Rivers
      Knowing how much actual support Ed got might be some kind of guide as to how united and enthusiastic the Party’s going to be over the next five years.

      But you've already said you don't think he got much support, so it doesn't sound as if you'll be expecting the party to be united or enthusiastic. What's the point of predicting that outcome? I can't stand this American-press-style dwelling on the political process at the expense of the substance, it reduces life to the structure of a detective novel. Maybe a better way to spend your time would be considering future Labour policy, something useful like that?

    • 5 October 2010 at 3:40pm
      Oliver Rivers says: @ A.J.P. Crown

      Careful analysis of the data matters; if you don't know what the reality of a situation is, how can you decide how to make it better?

      We've now got a party Leader who, careful analysis of the data suggests, isn't actually representative of the wishes of the Party he leads. If he doesn't actually manage even that minimal requirement, what chances that he'll convince the nation that he'll govern for all, rather than narrow sectarian interest?

      And we've got ourselves into this position because the leadership election process is dumb. On average Labour'd be more likely to get electable leaders if the Party's electoral process were a little more sane.

      As it is, we've got a man who apparently thinks that most of the 2010 election manifesto was rubbish, despite the fact that he was that document's author.

  • 3 October 2010 at 12:49pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    It all comes down to the proposition that a party leader in the 21st century needs a bland exterior (the son-in-law look), a dark blue suit and a whole caseful of blatitudes (barmy platitudes) designed to make people think that is the packaging is OK then the goods must be OK too. Aldous Huxley wrote about this phenomenon some eighty years ago. The only one who has followed a coherent agenda in Britain was Ms Thatcher and one of her kind was enough.

  • 3 October 2010 at 3:00pm
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    Now I get it, Out Of, Pinhut & (maybe) Geoff. You think the Labour party isn't worth saving, it's Out Of Date, that's why you think you can afford to be so cynical and negative about Ed Miliband.

    You don't say what you're planning to replace Labour with. You'd better get on that. Do you remember the last time everyone gave up on Labour? Jenkins, Shirley Williams & David Steel decided Labour were an irredeemable bunch of Trots and they founded a new party, the Social Democrats. I wonder what happened to them? Oh yes, I remember: the ones who aren't in the dustbin of history are part of the Tory coalition. Meanwhile the old-fashioned, past-its-sell-by Labour party governed the country from 1997 to 2010. So ha ha to that.

    • 4 October 2010 at 6:52am
      Geoff Roberts says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      We don't need to go through the history of the Labour Party to understand that it has changed out of all recognition since the days when there were social classes and deeper divides between north and south than there are today. My belief is that the Labour Party needs to go back to its roots as an emancipatory organisation that educates its members for the coming struggles and works to form a working class with a consciousness of its interests and intentions. Working class? It's an old-fashioned term but the only way that Labour can rebuild its integrity is by battling for the interests of the people left out of the great bonanza of the past decade. Has Miiliband ever actually got his hands dirty? I think not.

    • 4 October 2010 at 7:35pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Geoff Roberts
      I don't think you can blame the guy for having clean hands. I mean, lucky him. To me, the issue isn't whether there's still a working class in England, although there is. It's that because of global trade a huge proportion of the young population worldwide is now working class, and they deserve a better way of life. This is something Labour ought to address.

    • 5 October 2010 at 7:36am
      Joe Morison says: @ Geoff Roberts
      Wouldn't that mean, Geoff, that the Labour party would be turning itself into some kind of pressure group without any chance of governing in the short to medium term? Such an organization might be a good thing but what about government? Do you want the Tories to rule unopposed?

      We have to deal with the world as it is. Miliband's Labour will no doubt disappoint in many ways but not so much, i suggest, as to make them as bad as the other side.

    • 5 October 2010 at 8:30am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Joe Morison
      That's right.

    • 8 October 2010 at 3:27pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ Joe Morison
      That's how they started, wasn't it? There's nobody addressing the issue of an impoverished working class because that would mean making some conclusions about the way we, as members of the 'western world' live and consume. There's a shattering movie about the way that the world's lumpenproletariat is forced to work - I'll check on its name and post it later. A large proportion of that population is enslaved by us as consumers. Indian labourers dismantling rusted old ships on a beach, virtually with their hands ... that is where A.J.P. Crown's young workers live and die. I like 'We have to deal with the world as it is'in Joe's last post - pragmatism as defined by the Tory Party? I'd like to see the Labour Party leading by a Foot - or two Foots - one Michael for the speeches and Paul for the incisive analysis and the political programme.

    • 8 October 2010 at 3:30pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      I didn't want to blame him, poor lad and it wasn't meant to be a piece of Orwellian romanticism about the dignity of labour - but then why now? What I meant to say was that I don't think that he has much in common with people who do work with the hands - the backbone of the party as it used to be.

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