GWYNNE BLOG: Enough of the ‘Silly Season’ – Ed’s up to the task

ed-miliband-007Having just returned from my summer break (two weeks in the Lake District, especially when coinciding with unusually good summer weather, has done me the world of good) I’ve decided it’s a good time to start blogging again.

Of course, I’ve returned to Denton in the middle of the annual ‘silly season’, where comments are often misconstrued and blown out of all proportion by a hostile media, especially when there’s a political narrative to be had. The latest string of stories are that Labour is not doing nearly as well enough under the current leadership: Labour is slipping in the polls. Labour is too quiet on a number of key issues. Where’s Ed?

Let’s debunk the claims being made:

Firstly, the opinion polls. For those of us schooled in the politics of the mid 1990s, it can be frustrating that we are not repeating the 20 and 30 per cent leads over the Conservatives enjoyed by the Blair Opposition. Of course, circumstances back then were very different. Tony was undeniably a brilliant politician, but let’s not forget he inherited a Party that had been in Opposition then for a decade and a half. Memories of the 1974-79 Labour Government had pretty much receded from the collective public mind by then; and the process of political change and policy renewal had already begun in earnest under Neil Kinnock after the 1987 defeat.

pollgraph

Courtesy of Electoral Calculus

Now looking at the stats, Labour has gained a respectable poll lead (today’s YouGov has Labour on 41% to the Tories’ 33%), and it has remained fairly stable for the past two years. So one shouldn’t read too much into daily or monthly blips – or, importantly, the newspaper headlines they generate. And Labour’s ground operation in the recent local elections shows that by targeting resources in the places we need to win back (Lincoln, Hastings, Harlow and the likes) we can achieve some very good results. The key will be to hold on to, and to solidify, this lead in the 18 months ahead, and particularly in the ‘short campaign’ through April and early May 2015.

This leads me on to the second point: 2015 will be a very different contest, and I suspect Ed Miliband recognised this from the very start of his leadership bid.

Certainly, the Coalition Government is unpopular, but it’s not going to be enough to merely champion a cause against an unpopular administration, or to win by default. That was tried in the past – in 1983, 1987 and to some extent also in 1992 – and it did not work, and it won’t work for us in 2015 either.

We need to set out how a Miliband Labour Government will be different, not just to the incumbent Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but also to the Blair and Brown Labour years; because the truth is people will still remember, and if not, our opponents will be only too keen to remind them (despite the many undisputed successes of our 13 years in office) of the failings – perceived or actual – of those administrations.

So the Labour Party is currently developing its policy platform for 2015, and in many areas has started to flesh out some good ideas that will make a tangible difference to the electorate: in economic policy, on the squeeze in living standards, and how a Labour Government would help those most feeling the pinch; in housing policy, setting out how a Labour Government will build more homes; in energy policy, by tackling the power of the ‘big six’, to bring soaring utility bills down; and in health, we have been working up the ‘whole person care’ concept.

Yes there’s a heck of a lot more work that needs to be done in the coming months, not only to develop firmer policy positions in other areas, but, most importantly, to let the public know what we’re about: the point Andy Burnham was making last week.

The one conclusion I draw from all this, is being Leader of the Opposition is a thankless task! It leads me on to the final, and, in my opinion, the most unfair of the charges: Where’s Ed?

It’s totally unfair because from day one Ed has led the Labour Party from the very front, and has not shied away from the difficult decisions he’s had to take.

_67046058_67046053Look at the Leveson inquiry. Many a Leader of the Opposition would have steered well clear of the issue, not least for fear of upsetting a certain media mogul. Ed decided this was an issue that had to be tackled, and he was frankly right: no wonder some sections of the printed media are so agin him! Look also at the masterful way he tore apart the Osborne Omnishambles Budget. And how he has changed the way the party hierarchy now campaigns: speaking directly to people in town hall meetings, or on the election stump, recognising that too often, people have felt like politicians haven’t listened to them. No wonder the slippery Cameron doesn’t now want an election debate!

Yes, leadership means people look to you to do just that – and take the lead – but ensuring there is an effective Labour voice is not Ed’s job alone, it is the collective responsibility of all Shadow Ministers, from the Shadow Cabinet level down.

I have absolutely no doubt that Ed is up to the task, but this is also a challenge for the entire Labour Team from now until the General Election, because the people I represent are crying out for real change and desperately need a Miliband Labour Government to be elected in 2015.

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2 thoughts on “GWYNNE BLOG: Enough of the ‘Silly Season’ – Ed’s up to the task

  1. I’m a naturally loyal party supporter but in the midst of the attack on all of us where is my party. I have been waiting for at least a glimpse of a vision for our country but never a word. Ed Balls is embarassing in his old fashioned aggressive attacks
    and never mentions what we spent our money on. Andy B has at least started a conversation.

  2. I’m glad Ed, rather than David, got through selection. I think there’s a lot to Ed and to the general idea of a quieter, more collected politician but I think Andy Burnham is right, both Miliband and Labour generally need to be seen to be playing more cards and not holding them too closely to their chests.

    My biggest fear, as someone who’s vote Labour in every local and general election since he turned 18 in 1986 and is likely to become a homeless statistic in the next few months due to welfare ‘reforms’, is that whilst people everywhere (not just in Tameside) are crying out from change of the present Coalition government, they won’t get it. People are genuinely panicking and fearful due to welfare ‘reforms’, the bedroom tax, ridiculous ATOS assessments, backdoor NHS privatisation, loss of employment rights, the explosion of zero hour contracts, pointless and punitive (not to mention expensive) workfare set-ups and so on. But I rarely see strong, coherent statements on most of these things or statements that suggest there will actually be real change.

    Regarding workare and unemployment generally, I hear talk about a ‘job guarantee’ for the long term unemployed (which will be a significant demographic come 2015) but nothing actually about what it entails and whether it’s actually that different from the various workfare programs talking place presently. I know some Labour councils are doing sterling work regarding the bedroom tax, but it’s not a cohesive, across the board opposition to such an incredibly unfair policy (96% of the people impacted have no alternative housing, and I’d say this national figure is reflective of Tameside’s own issues with social housing (I’ve been told I can wait 4 years for a ‘downsize’ in property)

    I understand that it’s hard to make guarantees of policy in advance, particularly when you don’t know how bad the economy will be in 2015 (dire or double-dire), but many people would be happy/happier if there was opposition in principle but an admittance that hands might be tied economically to deliver in the first years of government. At the moment, I genuinely don’t know how much Labour oppose much of what’s going on with the current government, despite my reading all manner of newspapers, blogs and twitter feeds. That’s a poor if not shocking place to be in. If I’m in this position, what position are the less politically informed voters in?

    Again, I think Ed has got in him – I think Cameron thinks so too, if Cameron’s angry red PMQs face is anything to go by – but all the Shadow Cabinet need to seen to be doing more and be heard saying more.

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