It is true that “Len McCluskey does not speak for the Labour Party” as Ed Miliband’s spokesperson put it last night. Nor (anymore) do Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn, David Blunkett, John Reid, or Tessa Jowell, who have between them been subjecting Ed to persistent attacks, without regard to the impending local elections. But the unnamed shadow cabinet members who have been briefing journalists against Ed and the direction in which he is taking the party are supposed to speak for the party, and it doesn’t stop them either. And then there’s Progress.
And yet, in spite of their total absence of loyalty, and their periodic active, damaging disloyalty, Ed continually makes concessions to them. In the interest of party “unity”. He speaks at their conferences. He writes introductions to their manifestos. He defends them when they are attacked even where he disagrees with them, and they’ve misled him into Labour’s own omnishambles, into a revolt that cut right across the party spectrum.
Who does Ed think that Len McCluskey represents? Has he bought the line from the Guardian’s report of a “warning by a member of the shadow cabinet that Britain’s largest trade unions have been taken over by a new “Bennite tendency” which must be fought by Labour“? Does he not realise that Len is actually doing his best to protect Labour from the prospect of Unite’s disaffiliation from Labour which will very likely follow the 2015 election if the Blairite tendency gets its way. The consequences of that for Ed, and for Labour, would be dire.
Hundreds of thousands of Unite members are amongst the five million voters lost by New Labour. At Unite’s regional political conferences, activists report persistent hostility to Labour. Jerry Hicks’s vote in the recent general secretary election reflects that: as an anti-Labour candidate, he made much of the money he claimed was wasted on Labour affiliation, although much of the increase in his vote since the last election were those of cynical right-wing members such as those in a number of Black Country branches normally loyal to John Spellar MP.
Labour has yet to be clear about its future direction. One Nation Labour has been a useful stop-gap but not more. The policy review process(es) currently look unlikely to provide an answer this year. The government spending review in two month’s time is surely a point where Labour must indicate where it stands on spending – will it stick to Tory spending plans or reject the austerity proposed by the Tories?
Will Ed Balls return to the position he argued in his Boomberg speech? Or is he more interested in currying favour with our own in-house austerity camp. Will Labour clearly align itself with its former core voters, with the working class, or will it keep them thinking that we’re still “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” and on their side.
That’s what Len is concerned with. Ed has a difficult task, it’s true, in keeping the Labour Party together. His best course would be to trust the Labour Party to settle the matter, through its policy making process, and ultimately at party conference. The party is loyal to him and it wants change. The Blairites are neither.