Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Osborne a Formidable Opponent for Labour to Best

Peter Mandelson has recently criticised Ed Miliband regarding his apparent distancing himself from New Labour. In a new chapter to the paperback version of his memoirs, Mandy says:

"When Ed pronounced New Labour 'dead' he was not only being more categorical than was wise, but quite possibly more than he really intended … Even allowing for the tactical choices he had made in his bid to become leader, however, I was struck by the fact that he had given no strong clue during the campaign as to what alternative to New Labour he envisaged. He was quick to say what he was against: essentially, Tory policies and Tony's policies. But he rarely said what he was for, apart from a belief in greater social mobility and equal chances in life for the young, more strategic government intervention in the economy, and primacy for individual rights in counter-terrorist law. I would sum up his position as being an egalitarian social liberal – different from Tony, yet not a reversion to old Labour."

I have to say I rather agree with Mandelson. It was a clever ploy, maybe, to reposition from an unpopular brand but the result has not exactly been clarity. And Mandelson is right to say that Labour will not regenerate support merely by waiting for the coalition to implode. Firstly, it may well prove to last the course and secondly oppositions never revive unless they have a genuine agenda to offer the voters.

So far, it has to be said, Ed Miliband has not really excelled as Leader of the Opposition. I voted for him but think maybe his brother might not have been such a bad choice after all. It has to be said that making an impact in this role is notoriously difficult but that is what he needs to do and he has not emulated to any degree the impacts made by Blair and Cameron when they took on the same job.

I also thought George Osborne's piece in The Guardian today was pretty formidable stuff. He is widely reviled by the left but as a politician is developing into a genuine class act. Ed will have to raise his game substantially just to match let alone best him. Re-establishing economic credibility is Ed's first task and that will involve finding convincing answers to Osborne's critique. Then he can start focusing on topics like the continuing impunity of the bankers about whom genuine anger still runs very deep and wide.

One of the few joys of opposition is that your policies don't have to add up. Swing voters seem to vote more with their hearts than their heads.

Ed Milliband's lack of impact might be a Good Thing (I try to remain optimistic despite contrary evidence) at this early stage in the 2015 campaign. Poor old Michael Foot's high profile in the early 80s did him little good. But I voted for David and still think he would've been a better option.

PS A couple of letters in the Guardian today blow some deserved holes in Osbourne's analysis. See also that paper's report on who Mervyn King blames for the cuts.
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