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Red Ed goes to Durham

Ed Miliband is set to become the first Labour leader in more than two decades to address the Durham miners’ gala. Short of openly coming out in favour of the Transitional Programme and the decisions of first four congresses of the Communist International, little could be better calculated to piss off the residual Blair fanboys that still populate sections of the media and the backbenches.

Alright, alright. I’m exaggerating a little, of course. Up until the early 1990s, the annual trek oop north to deliver a platitudinous oration in praise of this great movement of ours would have been an tedious yet obligatory aspect of the job description.

But ever since Blair famously skipped the event to fly down under and suck up to Rupert Murdoch and a bunch of News International execs, the symbolism of the continued absence has been obvious. The strategy for many years now has been deliberately to distance New Labour from the unions, and indeed, anything that smacks horribly of labourism.

The message Miliband is sending simply by pitching up on the second Saturday in July is equally obvious. Old Labour shindigs doesn’t come any more traditionalist than this particular event, which features the full brass band and colliery NUM lodge banner Monty. The rift is officially over.

If the evidence of the speech he delivered at the TUC anti-cuts march on Saturday is anything to go by, tub-thumping before a mass open air audience is hardly this guy’s forte. But I’m guessing that even if he gets onto the rostrum and reads out extracts from a postgrad textbook on quantifier logic in a robotic voice, the reception will be rapturous.

Given the risible efforts of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph to brand a mainstream social democrat like Miliband as ‘Red Ed’ and to reinforce the message that he is ‘in hock to his union paymasters, who delivered the votes that secured him the job’, there is an element of political courage involved in the gesture.

Miliband is showing himself to be strong enough to stand up to such media pressure to dissociate himself from the organised working class, lest that be considered uncongenial by swing voters in southern marginals.

Between now and the big day, you are certain to hear many pundits stressing what a suicidal mistake this constitutes. Already you will read huge numbers of columns from Tory commentators and disappointed Blairites alike, premised on the assumption that Miliband is a loser and that the next election is in the bag for Cameron.

Don’t take that for granted, chaps. Although all too few people these days care one way or the other, getting back onside with the unions could well offer a net gain, with lapsed Labour voters returning to the fold on balance outweighing the small numbers who shudder at the thought.

If the coalition presides over double dip recession, falling house prices, mass  unemployment, more homelessness, rising inflation and bitter social polarisation – and that remains the almost inevitable outcome of Osborne’s ‘budget for growth’ – then a leadership packaged as a soft left alternative to the free market right will start to look good to millions of voters.

That what the electorate will be offered amounts to little more than austerity in slo mo in place of the real deal does not invalidate that argument.

There is absolutely no reason why Miliband cannot win on an identifiably social democratic platform openly aligned to the unions. He should ignore those who insist otherwise. See you all in Durham.

Apology: When this blog first appeared, it did so in my name instead of David’s. I only hope the wit and style were unmistakably his. My apologies to David — Jon Lansman, Editor

One Comment

  1. james says:

    Both David and Ed sent messages which were read out at last year’s gala, both promised to attend if elected leader.

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