The phony war of the labour leadership contest is almost over, and we get to vote for our leader at last. David Miliband seems to be the favourite, and indeed he will get my vote, but his younger brother Ed seems to be picking up something of a late following. The fact is that these two brothers each offer something different, so it is very important that the party makes the right choice, if (as it seems) the choice is to be between them.
In my own view, the decision we face boils down to whether we want ‘traditional, back-to-our roots’ labour values, or whether we want to reconnect with the voters who enabled Tony Blair to win 3 elections. I am concerned that a lot of those now supporting Ed Miliband are too young to remember what happened to the party in the 1980s. Then we moved to the left, elected Michael Foot as leader, and made ourselves unelectable in the view of the majority of the population. It took Tony Blair, and the creation of New Labour, to change all that. Do those now supporting Ed Miliband not remember those dark years when Thatcher held sway? Or do they want the party to shift to the left and, in so doing, stay out of power for decades?
Another factor in this discussion is the support of some of the larger unions for Ed Miliband. Undoubtedly they felt threatened in the Blair-Brown years, and think that an Ed Miliband administration would be more sympathetic to their cause. This appears to have been taken to extremes by the GBW union who have talked about ‘reconsidering their position’ over party funding if their favoured candidate doesn’t get elected. Ultimately, these unions will have to modernise, and in the long term, Labour must think carefully about its relationship with them, especially if they continue to make statements like this, which do us no favours in the eyes of the electorate as a whole.
Labour can no longer win an election by depending on its core support. Instead we must reach out to middle England, and to middle class voters. David Miliband is without doubt the candidate best placed to achieve this, and I am keeping everything available crossed for his success in the election that is coming up. Now all I have to do is wait for my ballot papers to arrive!