Miliband, doom, gloom and general stroppiness
ON THE one hand, sections of a jubilant Labour left are turning cartwheels across the floor. On the other, the rightwing press is rehashing the kind of low level McCarthyite headlines not seen in this country since the early 1980s.
Both immediate reactions to the election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader highlight the lack of balance or historical rigour that prevails in political commentary in Britain today.
To the extent that Ed is not his brother – who of course stood in apostolic succession to Blair – then those who do not favour the continuation of New Labourism in its most anachronistic variant will regard his success as the least bad possible outcome of an unnecessarily protracted contest .
But there is little point in coming to firm judgement until we see what Miliband does in his new capacity. While it is good to hear him declare that ‘the era of New Labour has passed’, he has yet to specify with what it will be replaced. If there is to be a Milibandism, we so far have no real indication of what the parameters will encompass.
Ed’s parliamentary career has so far been short, and he was not around for the crunch votes of the first and second term. But it is fair to observe that nothing he has done since 2005 marked him out as a natural born boat rocker.
Perhaps he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he has been hiding his social democratic light under a bushel, thus accounting for the accusation that he is some kind of crypto-Bennite.
But look under his bed, and the reds are strikingly hard to find. An examination of his concrete track record suggests that little stronger than reheated Hattersleyism is set to feature on the Miliband menu.
Opinions will vary as to how far that can viable be described as a good thing, but it certainly does not constitute a ‘lurch to the left’ in any meaningful employment of the left-right continuum as a working analytical tool.
A minimal grasp of twentieth century British political history should represent some kind of prerequisite for punditry. Yet how many columnists would be able to fit Miliband into the spectrum of Labour leaders of the past? Ironically, one of the best places to glean that information the book ‘Parliamentary Socialism’, penned by Ed’s late father Ralph.
In short, Ed Miliband does not want to be either a Blair or a Brown, which is to his credit. Neither is he likely to transmogrify into a Foot or an Attlee or a Lansbury. Callaghan? Kinnock? Let’s not go there. The question is how inspiring the public are going to find a Gaitskell or a Smith in the crucial years ahead.
Labels: Labour Party