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Ed Miliband’s brave decisions: Europe is the latest

Ed Miliband is constantly under-estimated. He is not as charismatic as Blair, but he is principled in a way that Blair was not, and in politics that is priceless. He is also brave while Blair was not. Blair opted to define himself by taking on his own party and by deferentially siding with those with power, whether big business executives and bankers in Britain or the US president internationally whether Clinton as a Democrat or GW Bush as a Republican – the ideology didn’t matter, it was the shouldering up to power. Ed Miliband by contrast has shown a steely courage in taking on those with power where there is clearly the right thing to do – Murdoch over BSkyB, the police over phone-hacking, the media over requiring a statutory underpinning for any post-Leveson settlement, opposing the cutback in benefits by facing down the Tory canard over strivers versus shirkers, and now in resisting the stampede towards an in-out referendum on British membership of the EU.

The real mark of a political leader is the readiness to court unpopularity when principle demands it. Ed Miliband has that quality in a way that no other leader since Thatcher has shown – neither Major, Blair, Brown, and certainly not Cameron who has transformed flip-flop into an art form. Everyone can see that his speech yesterday was to suit the requirements of his own deeply split party, not the interests of Britain. The brazenness, and yet also the fickleness, of a party leader who can tell his audience that he wants ‘heart and soul’ to stay in the EU, yet is prepared to put his country at risk of an apocalyptic political and economic decline in self-imposed isolation, all to shore up his shaky hold over a government irrevocably fractured, must surely represent a supreme example of putting party before country. The temptation for Miliband to follow suit, as anti-EU sentiment reaches a new high and most of the (Tory) media lionise Cameron for his recklessness, was enormous. But he resisted, and he was right. Romney found out that appeasing his Republican Tea Party extremists was insatiable, and ultimately self-destructive.

Miliband was right not to go along with the crowd, including the Blairite rump in his own party who always plump for the safety of short-term popularity over the long slog of principled strategy. He was right for a welter of reasons. Business, investment and growth will all be set back by an uncertainty lasting 5 years. The other 26 members of the EU, angry at Britain’s constant exceptionalism, are extremely unlikely to grant concessions of any significance. The perception of Britain in the eyes of the US, China, Russia, and the big emerging economies will be hugely diminished. And all this even before the real, overpowering case for staying in has even begun to be made which, along with prolonged austerity, NHS privatisation, and the assault on welfare, could turn the 2015 election into a judgement on Tory ideological extremism. Shades of the US.


  1. Rachel says:

    Have you read what Caroline Lucas recently wrote re a referrendum ?

  2. David Ellis says:

    Milliband is right not to enter the general election offering a referendum but he is wrong to enter it as an uncritical supporter of the imperialist EU lash up on neo-liberal principles. He should, as a labour leader, be promising to renegotiate the founding treaties with like-minded socialists in other EU nations in accordance with socialist principles and pledging not to carry out any of its anti-working class edicts.

    There can be no future for the UK economy out of Europe but the EU as currently constituted is working only for the elites and crushing the people of its constituent nations.

  3. Dave says:

    Michael: “Miliband was right not to go along with the crowd, including the Blairite rump in his own party”

    My understanding is that Ed’s position is shared by the Blairites – Blair declared Ed to be “absolutely right”.

    To me it seemed Ed dropped a very real clanger with his apparent unwillingness to trust the electorate.

  4. Rob the crip says:

    Jesus I watched PMQ.s and labour said no to a referendum, I thought well said about time to to come out with guts and say this.

    Then the next day we had what Miliband said and what he means was well, we are not saying we would never have one , because we might, , that is what you call edging your bets against losing people who might decide to go with the Tories.

    make no mistake referedi ums are now important to people because of what labour did with their promise.

    I’m not sure how I would vote now becauswe the EU is massive and corruption is high.

    But on the whole being in Wales I would say the EU was good to us, sadly now with Romania and Lithuanians enters Wales have been told to expect less.

    I suspect I may vote to stay in others I have asked are all saying no we need to get out it will be another close one…

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