Ed Miliband was elected as Labour leader on September 25th 2010, so on the second anniversary of that day, we’ve asked some of our contributors for their take on Ed Miliband, two years in – with more to come over the course of today:
Ed Miliband is doing something brave. He is challenging 30 years of orthodoxy: on the economy, and on the business of political leadership itself. In October 1980 Mrs Thatcher gave her “U turn if you want to” speech. It set the template for a generally approved form of leadership. Get tough, confront your own side if necessary, never take a step back. Of course, in practice Mrs T did have to compromise on occasion and settle for less than she wanted. But the mythology was fixed. Tony Blair explicitly invoked the Thatcher leadership style in party conference speeches – “I’ve no reverse gear”, “Backbone, not back down” – with varying degrees of success.
Miliband (E) is different. He is more conversational, and less confrontational. He has been mocked by David Cameron for lacking assertiveness and for not being “butch”. But the Labour leader does not seem bothered. As he said in his conference speech last year, he is going to do it his way. And he has vowed to follow his instincts. The lobby does not like this. He is not playing by familiar rules. He is speaking a language they do not always understand. And he is not really compromising too much over this. Now the government is struggling. Opinion polls are providing Labour with some encouragement. Ed Mili is getting a better press – although, in truth, I’m not sure his PMQ performances are so radically different today (when he wins good notices) from a year ago (when he didn’t). That’s momentum for you – and the unique breed of journalism to be found in the Westminster lobby. Ed has established a solid platform. Now he must build on it, with policies, and with continued incisive attacks on the government. He needs to assert his identity and introduce himself properly to the voters. They are beginning to listen, at last, and are ready to hear something different, and uplifting. - Stefan Stern is a management writer, director of strategy at Edelman in London and Visiting Prof at Cass Business School
“Ed’s revolution is not quick but constant. There has been no big bang, but instead a series of small waves, each one washing away one more level of the outdated systems and outmoded thinking that had worked in the past but has now become a millstone around the necks of the Labour Party and the body politic. Ed understands the value of small but people centred intervention –whether that means the community campaigning of Movement for Change or the reinvigorating of CLPs through Refounding Labour. He is also reaching towards a greater understanding of where a 21st century Social Democrat Party needs to be to improve society and the inequalities that the broken politics of the last 30 years have left us with. What Ed must do now is find a way to both articulate and sell that vision to the country. Our poll ratings are great, our leader is secure, but the next election is far from won. We must abandon terms that appeal to academics like “predistribution” and “Predator Capitalism” and talk to people in the language of their lives. That’s how Ed’s vision becomes Britain’s choice.” – Emma Burnell
“It’s rare to see politicians prioritising ‘youth issues’. Even rarer is one who can successfully translate things affecting one generation into a narrative that resonates with everyone. But that’s what Ed has successfully done. Wide reaching narratives like the squeezed middle or the Promise of Britain, the idea that the next generation shouldn’t be left with less opportunities than the last, have successfully damaged the Tories credibility and left their claims that ‘we’re all it in together’ looking hollow and out of touch. Ed has reconnected Labour to an electorate who feel they’ve been left paying a heavy price for a crisis they didn’t cause. He’s earned the right for Labour to once again be heard. But the real test now is answering what responsible capitalism looks like and what it means for Labour to be fair but frugal? How will we rebuild an economy that isn’t geared towards the state stepping in where the market fails, but an economy that grows in a sustainable way in the first place. An economy that provides adequately for people and doesn’t expect the state to deliver the difference between wages and the cost of living. Ed has successfully built the overarching narratives no-one else was prepared to tackle, now he needs to bring those narratives to life with the policies that underpin them.” – Susan Nash is Chair of Young Labour
“After two years, it is far from a ridiculous notion that Ed Miliband could be Prime Minister. In the past nine months, he has shown himself to be
capable at the skills of Opposition – standing up to his opponent in the Commons, fighting and winning tactical battles, presenting himself with
confidence in the media. Yet, it is a massive strategic victory that he is reaching for. That is not just about winning the next election. He wants to transform British capitalism. His task is to find a language to articulate this ambition. The rhetoric must be grounded in policy and smart politics too. Sometimes there will have to be concessions and compromises in order to safeguard the bigger idea. So Ed Miliband is through the ‘can he do it?’ phase of his leadership; he has passed that. The next phase must be about showing that he will on a strategic level that ties vision to policy to politics.” – Anthony Painter is a political writer and commentator
“Two years ago, Ed’s victory played into a tried and tested media narrative – Red Ed, shift to the left, ruled by the unions and so forth. It was hard to see how he would escape the branding. But many now admit, from members of the lobby to sceptical backbenchers, that Ed has defied his critics and led the Labour Party to a strong position to win the next election. Ed has shown that he can lead by sticking to his principles while others urge caution, whether on the need for a judge led enquiry into phone hacking, a debate on responsible capitalism or scrutiny of the banks. The test for Ed during conference will be whether he can provide some practical policies which illustrate his vision so we can start to explain to the public why they can believe in Labour again and exactly what a Labour Government would do differently.” - Jess Asato is Labour’s PPC for Norwich North and formerly worked on David Miliband’s leadership campaign
“Ed was elected to do Big Things with the Labour Party – ‘change to win’ was our motto for a reason. Ed was elected to turn the page on Iraq, end 42 day detention without trial, replace tuition fees with a graduate tax, and cease the marketisation of public services and the centralisation of our Party. Ed has used his first two years to make big intellectual arguments about the need for change in the economy and society. What is now needed is the policy agenda that enacts those ideas and the politics that delivers them. Simply put, Ed needs to construct an agenda as big as the 1945 moment that the 2015 election represents. To win that election Ed needs to show the political mettle he so ably demonstrated when he out-debated, out-organised and simply out-worked all his competitors to win the leadership. Now he’ll be judged on his fundraising numbers, his clarity of vision and his credibility as Prime Minister-in-waiting. I’ve no doubt he’ll succeed. And when he does, he can be the Prime Minster of a government that does Big Things. After all, that’s what politics is for.” – Marcus Roberts is Deputy General Secretary of the Fabian Society and was Field Director of Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign
“It is fitting that the second anniversary of Ed’s election is marked by him achieving the highest Labour lead in an ICM poll since Blair over IDS in May 2003. That’s because Ed has quietly, carefully reassembled the broad coalition that backed Blair before the Iraq War. He has healed divisions in the party and developed a unity of purpose, avoiding the splits that have historically always afflicted Labour after election defeats. He has intelligently developed a compelling narrative around the “squeezed middle” and “responsible capitalism” which addresses the times we live in and appeals to the centre-ground without being crude triangulation. He has done all this while staying un-spun and true to himself. I feel vindicated having campaigned for Ed – the Party and the country are now buying into the future PM I could see back in 2010. The naysayers and carping critics have been proved very wrong.” – Luke Akehurst is a councillor and member of Labour’s NEC.
“I remember two years ago today pretty well. It was the day I moved into university halls. No telly, no internet and with my preoccupation firmly upon making friends, I didn’t pay much attention to Ed Miliband’s win. I only found out when I received a text that simply read: “Well, at least Rovers won.” I did go so far as to ask my new housemates what they thought of Miliband, but their answers were non-committal. First day, eh? Since then Miliband’s managed to, finally, make the job his own. Anyone who thinks he won’t be leader come the next general election is living in a dream world, or at least has some sort of juicy Ed gossip of the kind I’m not privvy to. He’s had his wobbles (let’s hope this conference speech is better than the last) but he’s settled into the role. His PMQs performances are better and the Party at last seems to be more focussed on the Government than itself. At a TUC Congress fringe two weeks ago, Mehdi Hasan said that Ed Miliband is naturally a “cautious politician”. On that much, he’s right. And so far, that’ll do nicely. If we carry on like this I predict we’ll get a small, working majority in 2015. But Miliband trails Cameron in most personal pollings. If he builds on his growing confidence, becomes bolder, starts taking decision people see as “tough”, well… it could go either way, but it could well be the making of our next prime minister.” – Conor Pope