Today Ed Miliband will be in Birmingham to address Labour’s National Policy forum (which we’ll be covering this weekend). In his speech he is expected to stress the challenge that Labour faces in opposition, saying:
“Our task will be to rebuild Britain. To rebuild our economy. To rebuild our society. To rebuild our politics. So that we can rebuild our country to ensure that it works for everyone, and not just a powerful, privileged few.”
However, he’ll also launch a forceful attack on David Cameron – labelling him “tainted” in the wake of recent Leveson evidence. Miliband will say:
“This is a Prime Minister who sent the texts, received the texts, even rode the horse. And what we now know is we have a tainted Prime Minister. Tainted because he stands up for the wrong people. Tainted because he does not stand up to the rich and powerful. Tainted because he cannot be the change this country needs.”
Miliband will also deny that Leveson is a distraction and a media/Westminster bubble issue. I disagree – I think that’s exactly what it is. Not one person has mentioned it to me on the doorstep, but since the lobby are consumed by it so are our MPs. I know some close to Miliband feel the same way, but he appears determined to stick with an issue (media ownership and Murdoch in particular) that has served him well. As he believes (as he’ll argue tomorrow) that old orthodoxies are “crumbling before our eyes”, that’s not surprising.
I hope he’s right, but I fear that he’s not.
This is a brave speech.
That said, there are some internal party issues that look like they are being tackled head on by the leadership. On the failure of the party in many areas to campaign effectively (and vigorously) – something that came to a head post Bradford West – Miliband will say:
“We need a politics rooted in people’s lives through the work of Labour Party members, councillors, and the ordinary men and women of our trade unions. So that we convince the public once again that politicians don’t only care when election times come around but care about changing communities year in, year out.”
He’ll also talk about the problems with the makeup of our PLP (something I wrote about just a few days ago – and something of real importance to the unions), saying:
“We need a politics where politicians look like the constituents they represent. So we should not rest until 50 per cent of our MPs are women, ethnic minorities are properly represented and we deal with one of the most glaring omissions in political representation: the skewing of our politics away from working class representation.”
Just because I like this bit of the speech though, it doesn’t make it any less brave. Vested interests exist as much within this party of ours as they do in the media and business. There are plenty of people who want to keep parliament a cost clique for the political class. And Miliband risks waging a war internally on selections just as unwinnable as his war externally with the media.
Yet although in these two key respects this is a brave speech, it also ducks what will likely be the major talking point for NPF delegates over coffee (and other, stronger, drinks) – plans to “outlaw” Progress. There will be many members of Progress at the NPF. There will be many GMB members (alongside other trade unionists). There will be more than a few delegates who are both. Yet Ed hasn’t spoken out on an issue that has now moved into the mainstream press.
He may not be afforded that luxury for much longer.
As brave as he’s being elsewhere (and whilst I can see quite clearly why he’ll be keen to avoid the issue in the short term), as a former Progress vice-chair – backed by the GMB for leader – he’s being somewhat less brave by not tackling the issue head on.
He’s likely to be asked about it, if not tomorrow, then soon.
I hope he has an answer ready. The answer could well define the next stage of his leadership.