Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trade unionists save Labour from itself

I had anticipated that if Ed Miliband was to win, he'd either have to be ahead in the members' section of the electoral college once all the preferences had been redistributed, or only very slightly behind. Clearly that was Nick Robinson's reading too, hence his intensely irritating judgement that listening to his last-minute 'forecast' of a David Miliband victory was far more important to us than the reading out of the actual result! But a much wider margin for Ed Miliband than predicted in the unions' section has essentially saved Labour from itself. One of the stark lessons of the result is just how far the composition of the Labour membership has drifted from the party's traditional roots, a phenomenon that is undoubtedly a legacy of Tony Blair's long spell as leader. But clearly the payers of the (admittedly antiquated) trade union political levy have stayed exactly where they always were. It remains to be seen whether Ed Miliband will, to slightly modify a famous phrase, "rule as a break from New Labour, having run as a break from New Labour", but if he is true to his word, it may well be that over the coming years there will be a convergence in the centre of gravity in the different segments of the Labour movement. Will the Blairite members be the ones who gradually drift off now?

And the impact on next year's Scottish election? As I suggested to Sophia on the previous thread, I'm not sure there is much of one. If there was always a depressingly significant danger of Labour making progress in May whichever Miliband had been elected (and in all honesty I think there was), we might as well relish the long-awaited day that - hopefully - draws a close to the grotesque New Labour era.


  1. I'll have to wait and see what Ed Milliband actually does now he's the leader. He owed his elevation in the Labour party to patronage from Gordon Brown just as his brother David did to Tony Blair.

    Brown was as much an architect of New Labour as was Blair and neither Milliband would have represented a break with the past whichever got to power. Ed may be more in tune with the Unions than David but both careers were forged within New Labour.

    I can't see Labour changing much between now and the next General Election.

  2. Well, yes, there's certainly a danger that I'm speaking far too soon, and I must admit it wouldn't have occurred to me that there was all that much to choose between the Miliband brothers at the outset. But given the sheer range of left-of-centre pronouncements he's made over the last few months, he must realise how totally unprincipled he's going to look if he completely backtracks from that.