Nice ideas Ed – but what comes next?

12th May, 2012 3:38 pm

Ed Miliband’s speech today was positive, upbeat and well received – far better received than his Maurice Glasman inspired effort of last year (how long ago those days seem now). Miliband sought to flesh out the narrative he’s been pushing since the local elections, and even as far back as Bradford West. He’s bang on the money when he talks about appealing low turnout. He’s bang on the money when he talks about the distance between politics and the lives of ordinary people.

And he’s completely right to argue that only by the Labour Party changing culturally can we change any of that. Having banged on about these issues for close to two years on LabourList, as you can imagine, those messages were music to my ears.

Better still, as I left the hall I heard several other people say likewise. Some of whom are Mili-acolytes, but others who have been scathing about him in the past. Slaves to the old model of Labour campaigning – the race to the bottom, organising a dwindling volunteer base to knock up a dwindling electorate – are now coming around to the idea that a new form of campaigning is necessary. The alternative is the persistent extent entail threat to mainstream party politics that is disengagement and poor turnout.

Thats’s not alternative at all.

Yet what’s frustrating is that whilst Miliband seems to have turned his focus in recent weeks back onto the party change narrative that served him so well in the leadership contest, there’s still an element of timidity at play. I asked him at the end of today’s speech what this all means, in tangible terms, in CLPs like my own. He argued, rightly as I can attest from experience, that have candidates selected early and organisers in place helps win elections. That’s a truism. He went on to say that we need more candidates in place, and more organisers. But he didn’t say where, how or when. Or how many. These are crucial questions, the answers to which will show whether Miliband is really serious about creating a different politics, or whether this is another rebranding exercise.

For the sake of the party, the country – and for Ed’s leadership – it needs to be the former. We’ve had far too many of the latter.


  • Ianrobo

    The organisers ?? 

    what happened to M4C ?

  • Pat

    One thing that needs to change is trusting local members/supporters to select candidates, preferebly candidates with a connection to the area. Stop the parachuting and have people who have a strong knowledge of what really matters to people in the area.

    • Brumanuensis

      As Luke Akehurst pointed out when this last came up, there have been two parachuted candidates in the last 15 years: Alan Johnson in 1997 and Chris Leslie in 2010. There is not an epidemic of parachuting. There is a problem of lack of diversity, but that’s not solely the fault of the NEC.

      • TomFairfax

         Difficult to believe with the Spad-u-like clones that keep being nominated.

        Tristram Hunt may not have been a spad, but clearly Stoke on Trent Labour were underwhelmed by someone so obviously friends with Mandy ending up in a safe seat.

        Then there is the issue of continually choosing non-entities from outside a 50mile radius for seats in Suffolk.

        It’s not just Labour these days resorting to such nepotistic practices, so it can be an advantage to not do this so bloody often and without regard to how it might be received in each area. DC’s ‘A’ list is a symptom of the same disease, but it doesn’t mean we should refuse the medicine.

        The Tories have had countless cabinet members from Suffolk over the years, but apparently Labour can’t apparently even find candidates better than ex-councilors from London to  be MPs. People notice descrepancies of that magnitude.

        • Brumanuensis

          I agree that the habit of farming out London councillors is annoying – I was unhappy – when Lucy Rigby was selected for Lincoln, but in that and other cases, it was still the CLP that made the decision. They’re as responsible as the higher-ups, in this regard.

          • TomFairfax

            Yes, and no. I can’t comment on the Lincoln case.
            However, the CLP will make the final choice based on a shortlist.

            In some cases the shortlists are imposed, or compiled by a very narrow group that can be influenced.

            It is not beyond the wit of man to compile a shortlist that gives an advantage to a specific candidate.

            So the balance between central control and local responsibility needs to be safeguarded, and not so lightly set aside in cases such as selecting a candidate after the election is called.

            I don’t think we disagree much in anything except the magnitude of the issue. I suspect it revolves around whether one considers just the most blatant cases or the actual culture that allows it in varying degrees less blatantly as well.

            The only simple solution is to make ‘none  of the above’ an option for all final selections. Any potential candidate who comes second to that option really isn’t in a position to later ask the electors to choose them as their representative.

          • Mike Homfray

            What I think you get is reaction to the previous MP. Often a local worthy will be replaced by someone the CLP thinks will become a cabinet minister. Then they get fed up with them and replace them with a local worthy….

        • AlanGiles

          Not to mention Jonathan Reynolds in Purnell’s  Stallybridge constituency…. more interference from the top.


          All yesterday and this mornings links have been drummers. Will have to think up new one for today

          • Mike Homfray

            Now – this is a good example. He was actually in the constituency already and was a Councillor – but just the sort of person who some CLP’s like to select as a likely future minister.

            However, he was a local selection.

          • AlanGiles

            I remember that Mandelson and Purnell himself were instrumental on getting him put on the short list, which automatically  flashes warning lights for me – anything that pair gets up to I view with deep suspicion!

            * Dave Horler (1943 –   )

          • Brumanuensis

            Agree with Mike here, Alan. Although his inclusion was encouraged by the Party, there were good grounds for the CLP to select him, regardless of how good a choice you might think they made (or not).

        • Mike Homfray

          Tristram Hunt was a celebrity candidate – I’m to the left of him but he’s mightily impressive

      • Redshift

        Tristram Hunt?

        • Brumanuensis

          Fair point. Add Hunt to the above list. However the number remains vanishingly small.

          • CD13

            Shaun Woodward?

          • treborc1

             Nia Griffiths

          • Brumanuensis

            No, Woodward wasn’t a parachute. The CLP were encouraged, but under no obligation.

          • CD13

            Oh yes? Shaun Woodward and butler from Witney to St Helens – a natural progression then?

          • Brumanuensis

            ‘Parachute’ is a term with a very specific meaning. I didn’t say I approved of Woodward’s selection, only that it wasn’t imposed – to the best of my knowledge – on the CLP.

          • CD13

            ‘Parachute’ is a term with a very specific meaning.’

            Indeed … it means “a canopy which fills with air and allows a person or heavy object attached to it to descend slowly when dropped from a high position, especially in an aircraft.”

            Politically, it’s used to mean whatever the person using it wants it to mean.

            Hint … never argue with a pedant 

          • treborc1

             We know what it means it means when the Labour leaders tells people this is your choice, when the slate you have worked on with three people gets rejected and your told this is the choice of the Labour party.

            My local party has been devastated by this, with a mass walk out of the members and they did not come back.

    • UKAzeri

      I agree. members need to feel empowered. its not just local connections and local awarness but also the ability to make our voice heard in a tangible form!

  • Thomas Lydon

    If the Labour Party didn’t force us all into competition against each other for match funding then we could have an organiser where they are most needed, like my CLP in the SW.

    • Redshift

      I don’t think you can blame the match funding for the distribution of organisers in the SW. 

  • JohnD

    I thought the key thing in Ed’s speech was his unambiguous statement that the change he wants is backed by Iain McNicholl. I took this as a clear recognition that the difference between real change and rebranding would lie in transforming the organisational and political culture of the party machine. Seems almost unfair to say this 10 days after a campaign in which the organisation delivered nearly 2 million voter contacts in four months, but without doubt the key to the future.

  • Derekjs

    All too inward looking – a bit like fiddling while Rome burns I’m afraid.

  • Amber Star

    It’s comparatively easy to make contact with voters who have already registered & are on the electoral role (NB “comparatively” easy!). The next step, Mark, is for Labour members to knock on every door which doesn’t have a registered voter on the electoral role.
    We need to explain to them: e.g.
     “x% of the people in your street are registered to vote. They have a say in how local, regional & national government works. They have a say on important issues like how much tax people pay; about schools, colleges & universities; about local GP cover & hospitals; & about ‘other to be specified’ local issues. You should have a say too. Tell us what you think about ….; & register to vote. Have your say, like so many of your neighbours do! I have a registration form here. We can fill it out now, or I can leave it with you & come back e.g. tomorrow or next week.”

    Yes, it’s a huge amount of work. And maybe the people who register won’t even vote Labour at the end of the day. That’s grass-roots campaigning, nothing is guaranteed. But it’s also worth remembering, even in this internet age, what works best is face to face or voice to voice contact. And that’s why Labour can still win elections – because we have more boots on the ground than any other Party.

  • Mike45

    One good tactic would be to stop attending meetings of ‘Progress’ an organisation made up of people who would not be out of place in the Tory party and who push an agenda of outsourcing and neoliberalism which makes Mitt Romney look moderate.

    • Brumanuensis

      If you think Progress is made up of people who ‘push an agenda of outsourcing and neoliberalism which makes Mitt Romney look moderate’, then you need a reality check.

      I’m no uncritical admirer of Progress, by the way. I just don’t like hyperbole.

      • Mike Homfray

        Agreed. I can’t stand Progress, as it happens, but its E’s job to stay in touch with all the party. Including those who largely didn’t vote for him , which is the majority of Progress!

        • treborc1

          How long before we hear these are Progress MP’s, then I suspect if they get enough this is a Progress party

  • Brumanuensis

    A good speech, but there wasn’t a lot in it that hadn’t been said before. However the emphasis on changing approaches to CLP business, and moving towards a broader, more social movement-style campaigning – I wonder what Anthony Painter will think of that – were welcome. A bit long on rhetoric, short on specifics though.

  • Harry Barnes Email

    Mark : At 10.39 you posted this comment –  “This afternoon, Ed Miliband will announce the largest voter registration
    drive for a generation, as Labour seeks to re-engage with millions of
    people who don’t vote, as well as those who do.” Was this matter then covered in Ed’s speech? The Electoral Commission show that at least 6 million are missing from registers and many others are on the wrong registers because they have moved and have not transfered their registrations. In practice the turnout at the recent local elections may have been only 25% of those entitled to be properly registered. This should be a huge political topic and Ed would get credit for pushing for a system that sort to deliver a full franchise. Those missing from registers are high amongst the young, ethnic minorities, the poor, the rootless and the otherwise mobile. The current system does not even allow absentions to be properly counted. I persistently pressed this matter as a back-bencher, when on earth is the front bench going to pick it up? If something dramatic happened and people surrendly wished to rush to the polls, then perhaps up to 8 million would be fustrated. Thats not a happy political or democratic situation. 

  • Ianrobo

    David Miliband to return shows increasing confidence with Ed and it is a game changer as the right can now stop sniping 

    If true I fully welcome this and look forward to seeing David next to Ed at PMQ’s, go on Cameron make a joke of that !

  • Daniel Speight

    I can attest from experience, that have candidates selected early and organisers in place helps win elections.

    Sooner or later the question of who are the candidates has to be tackled. It still looks like clones of the existing leadership have a head start. We cannot continue with the Oxbridge/SPAD route to being a candidate if we really want the support of those outside of the party’s regular supporters.

  • Mike Homfray

    My advice to those urging Ed to move faster is – please keep it buttoned. Ed has always made it clear that he is in charge and we are not going to be rushing anything. In for the long haul. I have always thought this was the right way forward and still . I think he is proving this to be right.

    • treborc1

       2020 then

  • UKAzeri

    I am sure we all agree on this. I am to some extent tired of hearing about the need to do change without ( as the article rightly suggests) specific plans/formats etc. So why not start here :) 
    To kick-start this process we need a national online forum that would enable members to start discussions  ( under strict confidentiality conditions) on how best to organise and engage local voters. Such a set up would allow the leadership to forward/present specific solutions/ideas and formats that various CLPs can test/use, thus retaining a degree of control of direction which is essential for efficient organisational performance. This needs to be an explicit internal policy with staff dedicated to proactively promoting the proposed forum as well as managing it, in other words an investment is required.
    Practically it shouldn’t be a challenge as membersnet is already in existence.
    We need to link nationally and start using our common knowledge and expertise.

  • Davidbrede

    I am a lot concerned about the short consultation time for the Partnership in Power process. 

    Having barely a month to respond does not give us much time to convene meetings and get a debate going.

    How does Ed Miliband take to this?  Surely he wants an informed debate and a chance to share his views with members get enthuse contributors.


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