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Ed Miliband shifts Leftwards at conference but Rightwards in the PLP

What sort of party does Miliband really want? The signs are confused because his radical stance at conference in taking on corporate power has now just two weeks later been followed by a distinct turn to the right in the reshuffle. How a programme of transforming capitalism is to be carried through by a Labour front bench which is largely made up of people wholly opposed to any such project is hard to see.

The Opposition shadow cabinet plus attendees is now composed of 12 Blairites, 4 Brownites (who together make up a majority), plus 9 centrists, and 6 on the left or left-inclining. Ed Miliband has constantly asserted that he wants a united party which balances the various factions and interests. In no sense can this reshuffle be said to achieve this. Leaving aside the centrists whose politics cannot readily be identified, the right outnumbers the left by almost 3 to 1. That is contrary to Ed’s instincts proclaimed at conference, contrary to the balance within the Labour Party as a whole, and contrary to the spirit of a shared unity which Ed professes to believe in.

One wonders who actually made the selections. What role was played by Ed’s office which is almost unanimously Blairite or right-wing? Who decided to drop Diane Abbott, a candidate for the leadership in 2010 and one of the small minority on the left who remained in the shadow cabinet?

Who decided to remove Lisa Nandy, one of the very few on the left in the 2010 intake and perhaps the most prominent, from her shadow responsibility for child care policies at which she was performing so well?   Who decided to drop or move such prominent campaigners as Chris Williamson and Jack Dromey, and why?

Of course it is true that Miliband demoted three prominent Blairites, but they were replaced by persons of similar ilk. It is also true that the reshuffle in the junior ranks overwhelmingly favoured the Blairite faction whilst not one of the 2010 left intake was singled out for the front bench. This whole picture leaves a puzzling impression, that Ed Miliband’s political instincts are quite radical, yet in the PLP he errs towards placating the dominant faction, even though that makes it difficult if not impossible to achieve his political ambitions. It is hard to understand how he thinks he can achieve his vision when he suppresses or marginalises the very people who can create the political space for him and who would support him when times get tough, as in politics sooner or later they always do.

6 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    I think the days of a left leaning government have long gone and Ed is one of those people who is very insecure, if he thought Blair’s third way would get him elected he be Tony Blair, if he though the middle way was the best he do that.

    I do not think Ed is that much of a lefty, he is more then likely a chap who’s total way of looking at the next election is winning, if he loses he is gone it’s all over for him and the back benches I think will not appeal.

    Abbott spent to much of her time knocking Miliband non movement and he needed knocking sadly not from her, I think we all knew she was on the way out.

    Byrne went because to many of the bottom thought he was Blair mark two and Murphy was without doubt looking at the job of leader, knife out and throat cut.

    But your not going to get Ed looking at lefties I myself do not think the country would go for it anymore, well they did not in the past.

    So the question is will this labour party benefit me, that’s what counts will enough people think Ed Miliband and his labour party benefits them and their families, if not then sadly Labour will lose or at least be looking at a coalition.

    Cameron and the Tories are in a total mess and the only real hope they have is the economy will recover in the next nine months and unemployment drops.

    For Miliband he has stated he will remove the bed room tax which will be a winner at the bottom and I’m in that group.

    My own feeling is the big winner is again going to be Clegg he will I suspect be needed.

  2. David Pavett says:

    An interesting analysis.

    I have reluctantly come to the view that Ed Miliband has only a very superficial attachments to socialist views. Even this was enough, after a decade and a half of Blair/Brown, to give many of us hope that there was a possibility of a radical change. I think it was an illusion. Ed is far more informed by his establishment training, in his Oxford PPE, than he is by ideas developed by socialist and working class movements. It is a harsh thing to say but I can see no other way of explaining the extraordinary inability of Labour to break with the ideology of the Blair/Brown years, despite protestations of breaking with New Labour.

    I count as the strongest possible evidence for this the farce of Labours “root and branch” policy review first under Liam Byrne and then under Jon Cruddas. The Party under Ed has proved incapable of looking at itself and its past. That is, of course, a recipe for repeating the same mistakes again and again. Except that they are not even really ‘mistakes’. This for the majority of the Shadow Cabinet is just the way the world works.

    Let’s not pretend. Ed Miliband has enough in his background to sense that there are are a lot of activists who expect something more critical of capitalism. He serves up a little bit of this in speeches but when it comes to policies it is quite another matter.

    I disagree strongly with Robert (above). There are many indications, as Andrew Rawnsley pointed out in his Observer artcle of 6th Oct, that on a series of issues the public is actually to the left of the Labour Party. The want the railways and other utilities to be nationalised. They don’t want Royal Mail to be privatised. Polls indicated that it would be receptive for a democratic reversal of Gove’s school revolution – Despite three years of Twigg failing to put up any serious opposition. Labour is limited not by reality but by its ideology.

    There are many grounds for believing that there has not been a better opportunity for a move to the left in recent years. I am afraid that neither Ed nor the Labour leaders in general get it.

  3. swatantra says:

    It really is pointless to talk about the public being ‘to the left of Labour’ or even bring up the word ‘socialism’. as long as Labour is producing policies that make sense and are practical and pragmatic, then that is what matters, to the public. So renationalisation of Rail, or the Utilities, make sense by bringing them under State control, because choice does not work; people want to see some kind of regulation of these private companies fleecing us all There is no need to shop around if the State delivers energy a reasonable rate right across Britain to a high standard..

  4. David Pavett says:

    @swantara

    It is a strage claim that it is “pointless” to mention socialsim so long as Labour has “pragmatic and practical” policies. Everything depends on how you determine what is pragmatic and that depends on your political philosophy. “Socialism”, in my view, therefore counts for something in political discussion.

    We appear to agree about the utilites though and all to the good. This makes the general public more disposed to radical changes than the Labour leadership. You can describe this with whatever words you want but I see no reason to reject Rawnsley’s view that it puts the public to the left of Labour, on those issues.

  5. Robert says:

    I’m a lefty and I would not vote Miliband or newer Labour that’s for sure..

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