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Ed Miliband: against factionalism… except for certain factions?

Ed Miliband is against factionalism. Succeeding Blair and Brown, he has to be. As has been pointed out, the “paradox of post-factionalism” is that everyone counts heads to make sure he is. And to be fair, he’s even opened the door to some of those whom the Blairites judged unpersons — though he hasn’t shown himself too open to thoughtcrime as yet, at least not beyond those issues he raised in the leadership campaign. And it’s because of his anti-factionalism that the centre-Left is holding back from forming what could be seen as a mirror-image of Progress, even though a prime motivation for wanting to do so is to bolster the Leader’s position in a Shadow Cabinet and PLP that backed his brother. So why on earth, you may ask, has Ed agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Progress annual conference and to writing the foreword to their forthcoming Purple Book (which even some on the Right have criticised)?

Sunder Katwala of the Fabians argues the case for “case for factions – without factionalism“:

the key distinction is whether different strands of party opinion accept that other views within the party have a legitimate voice in a broad and plural party, rather than dismissing them as heresies which must be purged in favour of the true faith, or the only possible path to election victory.

We’d agree with that. We’re not at all convinced that it is the approach of Progress, as we’ve argued before, but we’d still absolutely defend the right of Progress to argue its case within the party. But it is a faction and it is therefore important that an anti-factionalist leader is at least even handed in his dealings with the factions.

The Centre-Left also needs to argue its case. The decision by the Compass leadership to focus on involving Liberal Democrats in multi-party activities effectively removes it , in the eyes of most on the Centre-Left, from being able to play that role. Jon Cruddas, in his support for David Miliband and his earlier dalliancing with James Purnell, excludes himself too. This leaves a vacuum in the internal debate. As Seumas Milne recently described it:

At least on domestic policy, the ever-cautious Labour leader has nevertheless begun to shift the centre of gravity towards the centre-left. But to go further, he needs to walk on two legs. Without a countervailing pressure to balance the New Labour right, Miliband risks being blocked from making the changes Labour needs to win back its lost voters when Cameron and Clegg finally fall on their swords. Given the weakness of the left in parliament, the ideological vacuum is currently being filled by maverick concoctions, such as Maurice Glasman’s “blue Labour” communitarian conservatism of “family, faith and the flag”.

That’s why preparations are being made to launch a new left-of-centre group of Labour MPs, backed by the unions, in order to bolster Miliband’s position. To head off a drift into factionalism, it’s likely to be focused on workplace, economic and working-class issues – rather than be a mirror image of a Progress-style outfit.

This new left-of-centre grouping will happen. It will have a narrower focus than some would like. The question is, when will Ed demonstrate the evenhandedness we have right to expect.

One Comment

  1. Phil C. says:

    is the future purple?

    er, no, probably not …
    especially if the shade of purple is an optical illusion caused by looking at something blue through rose-tinted glasses.

    The past however does contain a purple period; the imperial days of ancient Rome.
    As such, purple may appeal to any would-be emperors.

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