Sunday, 25 September 2011

More Of This Please, Ed!

This Post is Bought to you by Frank Lefty, of The Urbanite

This week is a big week for Ed Miliband.  On this day last year he had just been elected as the new leader of the Labour party after defeating his older brother in what was a closely fought contest.  In his victory speech he promised a new vision from the party, one that broke with the toxic environment that plagued Gordon Brown's government in it's last few months.  His aim was to offer a credible alternative to the coalition government and convince the British public that Labour was once again fit for office.

It is safe to say that, one year on, many people have yet to be convinced by Ed's approach.  A recent poll conducted by the Mail on Sunday saw a majority of voters stating their preference for David, rather than Ed, Miliband as Labour leader, with 39% of Labour voters even stating that they wanted the former Foreign Secretary to take over from his brother.

Many people we talk to do not know what the younger Miliband represents as leader of the party, what his vision for Labour is and how he plans to solve Britain's economic problems.

There are many reasons for this.

It is only natural for a new leader to take some time to get used to the role and revolutionise their party from top to bottom.  Just look at David Cameron after his first year in charge of the Tories.  Nobody gave him a chance in hell of surviving the role for more than a few years after a heavy backlash from right wing tabloids who saw him as a 'soft tory' and a politician without substance.

The main criticism that I had during the days of New Labour was that the party did not listen to ordinary people, in particular students and those from working class areas, and if there is one thing that Ed has shown over the past year is that he is good at listening to the concerns of the public and responding to events in the way we would like him to. For example, just look at his response to the phone hacking scandal and the summer riots.  Over time the public will begin to see his leadership qualities and appreciate the fact that in the Labour leader we have a politician that actually listens to the concerns of the people. This will, however, take some time.

We also have to remember that last year Labour suffered its biggest electoral defeat since 1910.  Political recovery from a defeat that heavy does not happen overnight.  Anyone who knows the history of British politics will know that governments have their cycles, and that once the public loses trust in a party it takes a long time before that party can become electable again.  Just ask the Tories, who were in the political wilderness for the past 13 years, how hard it is to get re-elected and reorganised after a crushing political defeat.  The one advantage, however, that Labour have at the moment is that the vast majority of the public are against the approach of the coalition government to reducing the deficit and are seeking an alternative after only a year of trying out Tory led austerity measures.

Which means it is now time for the country to see what Ed M is all about and what he can offer Britain.  This weekend saw the unveiling of some new policy ideas from the leader, with the promise to cap tuition fees at £6,000 being one new policy that is right up our street. This is all part of his focus on what he has previously referred to as the 'squeezed middle' - lower middle class families that work hard but are rarely rewarded from the state and are suffering the hardest from rising fuel and food prices.  More policies such as these will go some way to convincing some people that Labour, unlike the Tories and the Lib Dems, understand the strains the financial crisis is having on ordinary families.  

The main thing Ed Miliband has to do this week, however, is offer the country an economic alternative to the coalition cuts.  Along with shadow chancellor Ed Balls, Miliband has to prove that Labour can be trusted with the economy. This means not just attacking the coalition for the problems they have caused, in particular the lack of growth in sectors of the economy, but also create an alternative plan that will address the deficit whilst maintaining growth and, most importantly, jobs.  

That is why his speech this week is so important.  Deliver the right message and the pressure will be on Cameron next week to explain why his government has failed on the economy over the past year.  Fail to hit the right tone and Miliband will leave Cameron with an open goal to keep continuing to blame all the country's economic ills on past Labour governments.  Such an argument is getting old, but without an alternative from the Labour leader it will be an argument that will still resonate with large swaths of the public.  

Either way, it is going to be an interesting week in Liverpool.  Follow The Urbanite for all the latest from the party conference.  

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