The grassroots’ choice? I’m not convinced yet

July 25, 2010 2:56 pm

grassrootsBy Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

For a few days now I’ve been meaning to write about the “bloggers’ briefing” held by the David Miliband campaign on Thursday, where Douglas Alexander sought to explain how the campaign feel they’re doing – and hit us with some key lines that they clearly want to push. Douglas’ article for LabourList on Friday focussed on the line they’re going to be pushing hardest – that David Miliband is the “grassroots choice”.

This morning we’ve seen a further attempt to push that line, as the David Miliband campaign announces the support of over half of the Labour council leaders and Labour group leaders in the country, both on David’s website and in the News of the World (of all places). I must admit that what the headline says, and what the article reveals, are two fundamentally different things. When I saw that grassroots supporters had come out in favour of David, I didn’t expect to see a list of names headed by Sir Jeremy Beecham. I’ll be honest, former leader of the LGA Labour group doesn’t scream “grassroots” at me.

The fact is that coming out and saying that many Labour councils and Labour group leaders are supporting you is a good enough piece of press on it’s own. It shows that people who have won elections – and want a strong Labour Party so that they can win again – support David because they think he’s the person to do that. That’s a strong line. So why go further? Why try to spin (and I’m sorry to use that word, but it really does strike me as spin) that support from council leaders means your candidate is the “grassroots’ choice”?

Council leaders, with the greatest of respect to them, are by definition not grassroots. They’re no more grassroots supporters than MPs are. They are a form of Labour establishment, with staff, offices and the trappings of power. The decisions they make as professional politicians (for that is what they are) impact on the lives of voters. They’re really not grassroots, and trying to use their support to push the “grassroots candidate” line only serves to weaken it.

The other string to the “grassroots” bow is the number of CLP nominations the David Miliband campaign has. It would seem that David’s campaign are on firm ground here: with 157 CLP nominations as I write this, compared to 145 for brother Ed, he’s clearly in the lead, if by a whisker. I’m not convinced it’s as simple as that though – or that CLP nominations are that good a representation of where the grassroots’ support is. CLP nominations are a reflection of quality of organisation, sure – but when CLPs vary in size so greatly, how can we really be sure that David is ahead of his brother at all? How do we know that he has recieved the most votes across CLP meetings, which differ in how they select their nominations, or that one of the other candidates is not hoovering up the largest CLPs? I don’t for a second believe that what CLP nominations show (the Milibrothers miles ahead, and the other candidates shades of nowhere) is an accurate representation of how first preferences will break in the members’ section.

When equivalence is given between CLPs of fifty people and a thousand people alike, then we have to accept (much as it pains me, when so much of my time is spent cataloguing them) that CLP nominations are an indicator, nothing more. You would need to be streets ahead on CLP nominations to say that you are clearly the members’ choice. So far I’m only willing to say that the two Milibands are more popular than the other three candidates. With variations in size and voting method across CLPs, that’s all I can say with any level of accuracy.

David Miliband may well be the choice of the Labour grassroots. He’s got every chance of doing well in the members section and could top the poll. He’s got excellent name recognition, and the greatest organisational capacity. But would I say he’s the grassroots candidate? Not yet – I’ll believe it when I see the vote announced on September 25th.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Labour’s Lessons from a Sikh Wedding Season

    Labour’s Lessons from a Sikh Wedding Season

    There’s been a fair bit written about the Sikh community in the nationals in the last few days in relation to Cameron’s political appointments to the Lords and some criticism for Labour for not having any representation from the 700,000 strong Sikh community in its Westminster ranks. Personally I don’t think there’s anything to gain in attacking Cameron for making more diverse appointments, even if the guy may not be as entrenched in the Sikh community as was claimed and […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Where does Labour really stand on a “Health Tax”?

    Where does Labour really stand on a “Health Tax”?

    The front page of today’s FT suggests that the Labour leadership is considering a “Health Tax” as a means of paying for the NHS, reporting(£): “Ed Miliband is to put the NHS at the centre of Labour’s election campaign and is considering an earmarked “health tax” or exempting the health service from deficit reduction to prove that he can deliver a better service. Mr Miliband believes the NHS is rising up the list of voters’ concerns but wants to offer […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Miliband calls for “overarching inquiry into child abuse” – and repeats call for Shaun Wright to step down

    Miliband calls for “overarching inquiry into child abuse” – and repeats call for Shaun Wright to step down

    Ed Miliband has released a statement this morning on the Rotherham child abuse scandal, in which he re-iterates calls for Shaun Wright to resign as South Yorkshire PCC. However, Miliband has gone further today, calling for an “overarching inquiry into child abuse” to examine what went wrong not just in Rotherham, but “in different institutions, in different parts of the country and stretching across different decades”. Here’s the statement in full: This week’s report into the child abuse scandal in […]

    Read more →
  • Comment If a young person’s opinion falls into the political sphere, does it make a sound?

    If a young person’s opinion falls into the political sphere, does it make a sound?

    There’s a lot of talk around the Party at the moment about ‘Generation Y.’ I suppose I fit into that category, although I don’t think I’ve ever used it to describe myself. Gen Y or whatever, what’s become clear to me over the years is that I’m one of the weirder ones. I’ve worked since the age of 16, doing jobs from working behind a pharmacy counter to fundraising in a call centre to translating for a construction company. I’ve […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Why rural areas need free buses

    Why rural areas need free buses

    To have a fully functioning society, bus services in rural areas should be free of charge. For young people seeking employment, education or entertainment, the unwell needing to visit and be visited in hospitals or the elderly wanting to break the loneliness of isolation, public transport is essential. If governments don’t want to spend money on services in rural areas, they should at least provide the means for people who live there to get to them in urban areas. Regular […]

    Read more →