Sunday, 8 January 2012

Its not about Ed.

What follows is not a defence of the wretched Ed Miliband. His failure to back striking workers, his demonisation of benefit claimants and his continued attacks on whats left of Labour Party democracy means no socialist should have any brief for him. However I think it is the case that last weeks "crisis" for Miliband was nothing of the sort.

There has been a lot of talk about Ed Milibands personal poll rating. The latest guff saying he is below Nick Clegg. The absurdity of this can be easily gaged. Can Nick Clegg walk down a street in Sheffield without receiving abuse? Ed Miliband may not be known, found weird or boring but no one has a strong opinion about him one way or the other. His critics say this is his problem. It may be, but excepting Alex Salmond he is not running against particularly popular or high calibre opponents. Clegg is a completely busted flush, Cameron has never won an election and comes across to most people as an arrogant out of touch toff.
Anyhow the polls on voting intentions have shown and continue to show a narrow Labour lead under Miliband. For a brief period after Cameron walked out the EU talks the Tories drew level but by Wednesday the 4th YouGov were showing Labour ahead by 2. Government approval rates are running at minus 25%. This article by Mori shows how voting intentions become a better guide to the results of a general election as the parliamentary terms moves on.
Psephology is a dark art I dont totally trust and Labour should be doing better but the poll ratings are anything but a crisis.

The politics of this so called crisis don't add up to much either. The press strung together three articles/ reports last week as a sustained attack on Miliband by Labour people. Liam Byrne's remarks about economic policy. Philip Glasman's New Statesman Article and the Politics Network report. Of these, the Politics Network report backed the two Eds strategy and called for focus on living standards and growth not defending the public sector. I oppose this approach and think the labour party and movement should be opposing the governments cuts in parliament, on the streets and through strikes. The problem is the Policy Exchange said nothing Miliband disagrees with. Glasman's article is damaging, but he is a loose cannon not particularly well regaurded by anyone in the Labour party. The other politics don't make for a crisis- a half bad performance at Prime ministers questions before Christmas, Abbotgate. Actually on big politics Miliband is setting the terms of the debate on "irresponsible capitalism" and high pay that the tories are following.  The November the 29th pre-budget statement also showed how the Tories are failing their own tests on the economy and the deficit.

So what is this "crisis" exactly? Ed Miliband came to bee the leader of the labour party with a distinct disadvantage. He was not the candidate of the press or even the "left leaning press" the Blairites, the PLP or even half the Brownites. His basis of support was the three general unions a group of young MPs and the soft left. Thus the Guardian, much of the blogosphere, the right wing press and many figures in the party were hostile from the beginning. His ever so partial renunciation of New Labour was enough for him to be seen as a dangerous lefty. What has now been cooked up is a media storm to fill news paper columns. The problem milibands opponents have is that Miliband has spent the year and a bit building up a power base that means he is utterly safe as leader. He has pushed aside the old blairites and replaced them in the Shadow cabinet with the brightest members of the new intake. People who talk and look like him. Ed Balls has been given the control of Labours economic strategy he always wanted and has lined up his faction behind Milibands leadership. Balls knows he would not have this under a David Miliband leadership. Finally the Bliarites are  fundamentally split between those who just want to pull Ed Miliband to the right (Mandelson, Burnham) and those who want to oust him.  

For Socialists all of these jockeying for power amongst the careerists of New Labour is sickening and shows once again the need for a through democratisation of the party and the wider movement. We also need to make the labour party stand up for working class people against the cuts and for a workers government. We should not join the false clamour for Milibands head but use the slight space opened up by his leadership to win the argument branch by branch, union by union and ultimately on the doorstep. 

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