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Ed Miliband plays a blinder

Ed Miliband: more comfortableThe last week has shown Ed Miliband prove himself to be a world class political leader, demonstrating toughness, skill, and sound judgement.

A poll in the Daily Express today shows that only 8% of the British public support immediate miitary action. But public opinion is itself shaped by how the political debate is framed. Miliband judged the public mood correctly, of deep scepticism about the merit of UK military action, but Ed Miliband also himself empowered and amplified the voices of those opposing Cameron’s war plans by breaking the elite consensus.

Of course there will be those who would have preferred a bolder stance from Ed, but his skill was in taking the parliamentary Labour Party with him, and indeed 39 Conservative and Lib Dem MPs also voted alongside Labour to defeat the government. This shows that Miliband’s position was brilliantly calibrated.

Let us be clear about how significant this is. The UK government has been defeated in parliament over the question of war, subtly undermining the strategic relationship that has endured since the Suez war in 1956 of the UK being the USA’s staunchest military ally among the world’s major powers. Cameron is left humiliated, and democracy has prevailed.

This post first appeared at Socialist Unity


  1. David Pavett says:

    My God! Are we really so desperate for signs of life from Labour that we have to go right over the top when it does something right.

    Andy Newman says the commons defeat for Cameron shows that Ed M is a “world class political leader” that it demonstrated “toughness”, “skill” and “sound judgement”.

    Michael Meacher already told us that we got from Ed M “an act of courage and statesmanship that shows his mettle as a leader”, “a man of inner strength and integrity”, as a man “who can take the gritty decisions when they are most needed”. Then he says of the Murdoch Inquiry that Ed was able “stop the biggest concentration of media power in UK history in its tracks, and then almost single-handedly block the press counter-attack against Leveson”.

    Isn’t this all just a tad exagerated?

    Having read the Syria debate in the Commons and watched Labour’s dithering before it I cannot but agree with Phil Burton-Cartledge that “It is regrettably true that Ed led his Parliamentary troops into voting against the government on technical rather than principled grounds.”

    In the event Cameron handled his own arguments and his own MPs so badly that he narrowly lost the vote. He should never have allowed the Americans to rush him into the vote. The result is that even without having really dealt with the difficult arguments (waiting for the inspectors is the easy bit) Miliband was able to score an important victory. He was lucky. Good, I am glad about that, but can we keep the whole thing in perspective and not rush to see Miliband as exercising insight and powers for which there was, in fact, no evidence.

    P.S. I did not understand the reference to “the strategic relationship that has endured since the Suez war in 1956 of the UK being the USA’s staunchest military ally”. The US opposed the British Action in Suez and Britain in turn did not support the US in Vietnam (unlike the Australians). Moreover I believe that Mr T was not too happy about the US invading Granada without consulting her.

  2. Rob the cripple says:

    Today we are hearing the UK sold chemicals to Assad that may have been used in the making of chemical warfare .

    Not to long go Blair wanted Assad to he honoured by the queen, boy how this bloke has changed his tune.

    We have had enough fake wars.

  3. Andy Newman says:


    Clearly 1956 was a watershed moment for British imperial policy, where it became clear that british policy was subaltern to the USA’s.

    Notwithstanding Britain’s non-participation in Vietnam- this was in a cold war context of British diplomatic support.

    Politics is a messy business, and Miliband’s achievement was to keep the PLP together through very rocky waters

  4. Peter Rowlands says:

    I am inclined to agree with David Pavett’s response to this and Michael Meacher’s piece, and also with Jon? that Dan Hodges was right that Ed changed his mind. The question is was that a genuine change, or did he always intend to do this but led Cameron to believe otherwise?
    We don’t know, but the outcome was positive, in itself, in that it damaged Cameron and not least in that it has helped to improve Ed’s position considerably vis-a-vis his Blairite enemies.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Peter: personally I wold not have used some of the language Michael used in his piece, but I do agree that, in the end, Ed Miliband’s tactics, following his change of mind (it was indeed my recommendation of the Hodges piece and I think looking at this statement makes it clear that there was a hardening of position rather than just an attempt to trick Cameron), deserves high praise for the tactics adopted. Even if the final outcome went further than he may have intended (effectively preventing any UK military response under any circumstances- though there will no doubt be further attempts to raise it) he deserves praise a s you say for having outwitted Cameron & Clegg, and having effectively determined government policy from the opposition benches. I hope this will raise his standing in the country, but I think there are other things he needs to do (in relation to the union link, Falkirk, party democracy, austerity) to raise his standing in the party.

  5. Rod says:

    Andy N: “Miliband’s achievement was to keep the PLP together through very rocky waters”

    Early days yet – the Blairites still appear to reeling from the shock of a shattered ambition. There would have been resignations if they had anywhere else to go – but they didn’t win the vote for war so there won’t be any non-executive directorships on offer from the defence corporations.

    They’re sure to want revenge in some form.

    The sooner Ed sorts his reshuffle the better. Let’s hope Jim Murphy is promoted to tea making duty.

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