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.