Who says we cannot win with Ed Miliband as Leader? It was only in January that a meeting of leading Progress MPs decided not to challenge him this side of a general election — not because they really back him but because they couldn’t bring themselves to back Balls or Cooper, and they didn’t have a candidate of their own. Now we have had Labour’s best result since 1996 in Wales, a great result in England and a very much improved result in Scotland compared with last year. The string of victories across the key electoral battleground of the South and Midlands was heartening. A possible narrow defeat for Ken, deeply disappointing though it may be, would not alter the overall picture much when Labour has clearly done very well in the London Assembly too.
Ed Miliband was nevertheless right to show modesty and stress how much we still have to do to rebuild public trust after the disastrous defeat of New Labour:
I want to thank everyone who voted Labour yesterday and placed their trust in us. I also want to say something to those people who voted for other parties and the many people who did not vote at all. I will work tirelessly between now and the next General Election to win your trust.”
“I know we have more work to do to show we can change our country so that it works for you, for your sons and daughters who are looking for a job, for families feeling a squeeze in living standards, for everybody rather than just a few at the top.”
“David Cameron promised change but has failed to make things better. People are hurting from this recession. People are suffering from a government that raises taxes for millions of families but cuts taxes for millionaires. I am determined that we show people we can change people’s lives for the better.”
The critical thing for the Left is how we follow this up. What we need is a party committed to the changes Ed promised in his leadership campaign. A party in which the Leader is not under such pressure from an over-mighty Blairite party-within-a-party that he is forced to compromise his commitment to the changes he knows are necessary. The Left must therefore quickly switch its focus from doorstepping to other aspects of necessary political activity:
- The national party is about to consult constituency parties and affiliates on six short new policy statements which will go to the national policy forum in mid- June, for final decision at the autumn party conference. We must ensure this moves policy in the right direction.
- Constituency parties must submit rule changes by the end of June — drafts will be available on Left Futures next week. Please make sure your party considers these.
- Ballot papers go out for the elections to the national executive and national policy forum in mid-May. Leaflets/electronic flyers will be available for distribution in your party. Make sure you maximise support for the centre-left slate. Never was there a more important time to win these positions for the centre-left.
There’s no time to lose! Get organized.