Ed’s going to be tough with the party? How, exactly?

October 17, 2012 10:20 am

Mary Riddell has a piece in the Telegraph this morning that has baffled me somewhat. Whilst it argues that Ed Miliband “is planning to get tough with his party”, there’s nothing concrete suggested that might constitute this proposed toughness. Crime, welfare, immigration and education are all mooted as areas that Miliband may move on that may shock the party – so lets take them one by one:

Crime – being “tough on crime” is pretty much a touchstone for the party now. Much of the crime and justice policy that upset Labour members in the New Labour years was based around attacks on civil liberties – something unlikely to be repeated by Ed Miliband. The argument on crime and justice has largely been won in the party – with leaflets across the country calling for more police officers.

Welfare – this is an area in which it is traditional for the party to be challenged by the leadership, and Liam Byrne may well be planning something along those lines. But one of the major bones of contention in the party – work assesments for the disabled – is something that the leadership has now begun to sit up and take note of. It’s hard to see a party that accepted “welfare to work” be too put out by anything in that direction, and whilst Universal Credit may be criticised for its implementation, it hasn’t been rejected by Labour as a principle.

Immigration – a huge issue, and tackling it – or at least nullifying it as a negative for the party – is essential to win in 2015. But the Labour Party once applauded (admittedly without much enthusiasm) “British Jobs for British Workers”, and implemented increased immigration controls. How far can we really expect Miliband to go in that direction, especially when he has made much of his background in a family of immigrants – and remembering how team Miliband shunned Maurice Glasman when he went very much off message on immigration.

Education – now this could be where the party challenging happens. Except…we’ve sort of been here already. When Stephen Twigg became Shadow Education Secretary, he appeared to indicate that there was some benefit in Free Schools. Cue outrage from some sections of the Labou grassroots. But that message was clarified. Now Labour’s position seems to be that closing Free Schools, or building news ones, wouldn’t be a priority. It’s possible that a modified version of Gove’s new academies programme could be embraced, with a less centralised structure (freeing the schools from Whitehall) – but as Gove’s schools reforms will be a reality by 2015, that wouldn’t be a huge surprise. The same could be said for plans to change GCSEs and A Levels.

So unless there’s some major change of heart (AKA a u-turn), I’m not sure where the party challenging policies in these areas would come from. There’s little here that I can see provoking angry responses from a large number of activists, but perhaps I am under-estimating the passion around some of these issues. I am sure there will be times when Miliband does fall foul of the party rank and file, but that is more likely to be over cuts, public sector pay, the NHS (which in fairness Riddell does reference) and the economy than any of the above policy areas. Ed Miliband and his team may well be preparing the ground for a row. But with the party united, and Miliband’s leadership starting to go up a gear – is it really necessary to play the old politics of “facing down the party”?

  • AlanGiles

    I suppose it is just Ed’s turn to play King Lear this week – you know: “I will do such things, – as yet, I know not what”…..

    • Hugh

       I think you should cut the King Lear quote at “I know not”.

      Ed’s terrified of frightening anyone.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      Well, as a principle, universal credit has been something mooted before and there are some advantages in simplifying the system.

      The issue is far more how it will roll out in practice….

      • AlanGiles

        Hi Mike, Only today a report has been issued from a whole host of groups campaigning for the disabled, as you probably know, saying that many disabled people will be poorer for Duncan-Smith’s plan for universal credit.

        I suspect, like everything else Smith does it will be a total disaster, but yet again it’s a question of “wait and see” – till Cruddas reports or the Shadow Minister at DWP is somebody who actualy cares and is interested in his job – unlike the current encumbant who would rather be Mayoring in Birmingham.

        There might well be ways of simplfying the benefits system, but this scheme is yet another example of penny-pinching badly affecting the least able to afford it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

          I agree, Alan. I think it hasn’t been tried before for very good reasons

    • Hamish Dewar

      Eloquently said, Alan Giles.
      Mark Ferguson, you write that you are not sure where the party-challenging policies in these areas would come from.  But you have yourself singled out just four areas, in which there is one glaring elephant. It’s the economy.
      Why doesn’t Ed M challenge the party by demanding an end to pay cuts and freezes in the public sector and support all-out strikes to oppose them?
      And why not call for essential services such as gas, electricity and water to be brought back into public ownership?

      • Redshift1

        Why would that challenge the party? Most party members don’t agree with pay freezes and would like to see energy, rail, water nationalised.

    • PeterBarnard

      “Please, Sir, what’s a principle?”

      As Groucho Marx said, “These are our principles. If you don’t like them, we’ve got plenty of others.”

    • postageincluded

      Mark Twain had it right when he said  “Principles is another name for prejudices”.

    • postageincluded

      Mark Twain had it right when he said  “Principles is another name for prejudices”.

    • postageincluded

      Mark Twain had it right when he said  “Principles is another name for prejudices”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZPXYLRVP4XOIGGDJWAL6HUO7U4 David

    What about Europe?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      Its not a great issue in the Labour party. The majority of the party are pro-Europe, but pragmatic – and quite willing to allow the Tories to beat themselves up over the issue

  • Hugh

    Riddell’s piece is baffling and incoherent because she has nothing to report: there are no policy proposals yet emerging that would say which way Ed is going on these issues. That’s fairly clear from this line, which I found unintentionally amusing:

    “The next step is
    for “mezzanine” policies, halfway to manifesto commitments, which will be
    laid out over the next few months in a series of one-nation speeches.”

    That’s Ed – Mezzanine man.

    Riddell is right, though, that all those areas have potential for bickering: crime (where disputes are not just over civil liberties, but more generally over custodial sentencing), welfare (where there’s a significant section of Labour that don’t want reductions and a big section that do), immigration (which Ed cannot simply ignore), and eduction (because when you say reversing something is “not a priority” that is almost the definition of a fudge).

    You also miss the fact that she doesn’t frame it simply as a debate between sections of the party but as an attempt to focus
    on blue-collar workers. That’s why she chooses these areas (rather than public sector pay) – where Ed has to define where he stands eventually and where, even if his party agree (or agree to differ), it’s no guarantee the public will.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      ‘Potential for bickering’…..

      Crime – unlikely. Labour strongly support community and neighbourhood policing and behind the bluster there has been some good reparative schemes in development. The aim should be prevention.

      Welfare – more potential, but this is a moving target and the pictiure could look very different if IDS’s plans fail, which I fully expect them to

      Immigration – not particularly a party hot potato. Labour will never be in line with public opinion on this one so ….

      Education – again, as long as there is some sort of local co-ordination there won’t necessarily be rows. The free schools may be allowed to continue but will have to step in line and in any case, many of them will fail or opt to go private

    • PaulHalsall

      Perhaps the piece is baffling, but somebody in the party must have been talking to her for her to write the piece.

      • Hugh

         Yes, I guess, but I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

  • Dave Postles

    NHS: Burnham is more ambitious than Miliband/Balls.

    • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

      Do you mean by initiating health provision for the wealthy elite with NHS Global?

  • http://twitter.com/JoshFG Joshua Fenton-Glynn

    The biggest challenge as far as I am concerned is the need
    to challenge those in policy making positions and in seniour positions in the
    party to listen to those outside of that clique. There is an assumption that
    London-centric westminster insiders have a monopoly on understanding of what
    the country needs, however we have a national network of councillors, trade
    union members and activists engaged and interested and with solutions. To save politics
    – as Mark so grandly put it – we need to listen to those people we have ignored
    for the last 20 years.

     

  • Dave Postles

    Ask Labour in Coventry about new schools.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    I don’t get the impression that Ed wants to go in the direction Riddell suggests at all. He goes out of his way to demonstrate that he is at ease with and an integral part of the party. the informal question and answer sessions are examples.

    Blair was always somehow a cuckoo in the nest. Ed isn’t

    • John Reid

      Ed is tolerated because we lost heavily when we were burnt out, Blair was welcomed reluctantly because we kept on losing elections when the Tories record was 3 million unemployed, We tolerated Blair as we new that we had to have him to win, So In a way he was accepted as we had to have him to win, the Question is If Ed loses will we accept that we were only appealing to ourselves and that we maybe conformable with Ed ,but the public aren’t interested in A party that feels throwing money at everything is the answer

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZPXYLRVP4XOIGGDJWAL6HUO7U4 David

    Wrong place… see below

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZPXYLRVP4XOIGGDJWAL6HUO7U4 David

      Sure about that Mike: there’s definitely no referendum on the horizon?

  • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

    I hope there’s a bit of action in the pipeline though I’d guess that the purpose of Riddell’s piece is to create  an expectation that will be disappointed.

    However, should Ed want to get tough then he would do well to get tough on the matter of immigration. In his conference speech Ed rejected immigration caps and instead offered tougher employment rights for workers. This is absolutely the way to go and this policy needs to be shouted out loud clear. Indeed, this approach could be a game changer.

    Capable politicians don’t go chasing after the centre-ground like a bunch of kids after a football – instead they define the centre-ground and, to me, that’s what Ed seems to be doing.

    • Hugh

       “‘I’d guess that the purpose of Riddell’s piece is to create  an expectation that will be disappointed.”

      Why? She supports Labour.

      • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

        How very curious. Then perhaps this comment from her piece shouldn’t be dismissed:

        ” “Anyone who thinks one nation means moving to the centre ground is mistaken,” says a colleague. “It’s about meeting the public’s appetite for change.” In other words, Mr Miliband – much like David Cameron – is focusing on blue-collar workers, plus the three million out of five million backers lost to Labour since 1997, who are too disenchanted to vote at all.”

        • Hugh

           To be honest, I think it can be dismissed. She seems to have picked up some fairly vacuous quotes – “It’s about meeting the public’s appetite for change” (which could mean anything frankly, not just that he’s after the blue-collar vote), and then written a fairly vacuous article simply reiterating a point she and others have made before: that once Ed actually defines some policies in significant areas he risks going up against one or other wing of the Labour party, public opinion or both.  

          • http://twitter.com/waterwards dave stone

            Sure. It’s just that I couldn’t resist a cuckoo teasing opportunity.

  • John Reid

    Regarding civil liberties ,the only issues that Labour still differences us from the Tories are we want innocent people who were arrested DNA still kept and that we want the name of those who are arrested for sexual assault before being even charged or found guilty dragged through the dirt of the press, ,Maybe Ed wants to distance us from these policies and if we did it would outrage not the New labourites but the left of the party, regarding Immigration Ed’s never distanced himself form Either Frank field or Lord Glasman, and welfare although there’s been calls for Liam bynee to go, Ed’s never succumbed to them,

  • Jeremy_Preece

    I think that the ket point is that Labour has to offer something different and obviously better than the Tories.

    Let’s take public sector pay freeze, and the teachers who are facing an effective pay cut for the third year running. What is the good when the Tories say that their pay freeze is necessary to reduce the deficit, if Labour jsut say that we are going to continue to freeze your salaries in order not to have to cut the number employed. Different retoric, but same thing, i.e. salaries are frozen.

    So that means that public sector workers at the next election can vote to have their salaries frozen to help the deficit or frozen to protect public sector jobs. So is it any wonder that we hear so many people fed up with our political system saying that “they are all the same”. We need to encourage voters and start winning back the millions who just don’t bother to vote any more

  • http://twitter.com/_DaveTalbot David Talbot

    I read the article last night and couldn’t make rhyme nor reason of it. Most strange of Riddell. I know she writes in the Telegraph amongst the conservative hordes, and must therefore tone it down for the rabid tenancy – but I just didn’t get it.

    Maybe someone cleverer than I can explain the machinations of her thought in the article?

    • Hugh

       “Maybe someone cleverer than I can explain the machinations of her thought in the article?”

      Sure: “Two hours til deadline; don’t have much to say this week; still want to get paid.”

  • http://twitter.com/rob_marchant Rob Marchant

    Mark, it occurs to me that it may just be about trying to sort out the party organisation: where there are CLPs or councils gone a bit haywire, to make a serious fist of trying to bring them back under control. For example, stamp on dodgy campaigning tactics. This would be a good and long-overdue move.

  • markfergusonuk

    Nothing grand about me…

    • Monkey_Bach

      Nothing sweet about Gabriella Cilmi either. Eeek.

  • Andrew McKay

    I’m hoping that there is no more swerves to the right on immigration. Why can’t Labour just come out and make a positive case for immigration instead of trying to appease Daily Mail readers?

  • AlanGiles

    I don;t follow. You say:

    ” we want innocent people who were arrested DNA still kept and that we want the name of those who are arrested for sexual assault before being even charged or found guilty dragged through the dirt of the press, ,Maybe Ed wants to distance us from these policies and if we did it would outrage not the New labourites but the left of the party?”

    John, you blame “the left” for everything. Were Reid, Straw and Blunkett, who were so strict on restricting civil liberties on the left or right of New Labour. It was people like Bob Marshall-Andrews who was a left-winger who spoke out about such matters, while the majority of Labour MP voting fodder held their noses and voted for those things.

    As late as yesterday Alan Johnson was complaining against Mrs May stopping the extradition of Garry McKinnon to America, on the grounds that the other John Reid signed the papers to allow it. . And today the man so identified with the Toryfication of the Labour party, Peter Mandelson has slithered back onto the public stage.

    It is not the left of the Labour party who are in control, unless you are so prejudiced you really believe the aforementioned gentlemen are left wingers. If I may say so your re-writing of recent history is disgraceful and inaccurate in the extreme.

  • AlanGiles

    I don;t follow. You say:

    ” we want innocent people who were arrested DNA still kept and that we want the name of those who are arrested for sexual assault before being even charged or found guilty dragged through the dirt of the press, ,Maybe Ed wants to distance us from these policies and if we did it would outrage not the New labourites but the left of the party?”

    John, you blame “the left” for everything. Were Reid, Straw and Blunkett, who were so strict on restricting civil liberties on the left or right of New Labour. It was people like Bob Marshall-Andrews who was a left-winger who spoke out about such matters, while the majority of Labour MP voting fodder held their noses and voted for those things.

    As late as yesterday Alan Johnson was complaining against Mrs May stopping the extradition of Garry McKinnon to America, on the grounds that the other John Reid signed the papers to allow it. . And today the man so identified with the Toryfication of the Labour party, Peter Mandelson has slithered back onto the public stage.

    It is not the left of the Labour party who are in control, unless you are so prejudiced you really believe the aforementioned gentlemen are left wingers. If I may say so your re-writing of recent history is disgraceful and inaccurate in the extreme.

    • John Reid

      Regarding the fact Innocent peoples names are being dragged through the dirt after being accused of rape, it was the current opposition who opposed them being given anomininity Including Joan ruddock, Harriet harman and Diane Abbott,not the last labour Gov’t ,and I actually feel the holding of I people cleared of crimes DNA rather stalinist

  • AlanGiles

    I don;t follow. You say:

    ” we want innocent people who were arrested DNA still kept and that we want the name of those who are arrested for sexual assault before being even charged or found guilty dragged through the dirt of the press, ,Maybe Ed wants to distance us from these policies and if we did it would outrage not the New labourites but the left of the party?”

    John, you blame “the left” for everything. Were Reid, Straw and Blunkett, who were so strict on restricting civil liberties on the left or right of New Labour. It was people like Bob Marshall-Andrews who was a left-winger who spoke out about such matters, while the majority of Labour MP voting fodder held their noses and voted for those things.

    As late as yesterday Alan Johnson was complaining against Mrs May stopping the extradition of Garry McKinnon to America, on the grounds that the other John Reid signed the papers to allow it. . And today the man so identified with the Toryfication of the Labour party, Peter Mandelson has slithered back onto the public stage.

    It is not the left of the Labour party who are in control, unless you are so prejudiced you really believe the aforementioned gentlemen are left wingers. If I may say so your re-writing of recent history is disgraceful and inaccurate in the extreme.

  • AlanGiles

    I would remind LL readers that – believe it or not John P Reid is the secretary of the Havering area Labour party. With his constant taunts against “the left” and “throwing money” I find it hard to believe it myself sometimes. Go and join the coalition John – they’d love you.

  • AlanGiles

    I would remind LL readers that – believe it or not John P Reid is the secretary of the Havering area Labour party. With his constant taunts against “the left” and “throwing money” I find it hard to believe it myself sometimes. Go and join the coalition John – they’d love you.

    • John Reid

      My I remind readers that Alan giles isn’t a member of the labour party and votes elsewhere,

    • John Reid

      My I remind readers that Alan giles isn’t a member of the labour party and votes elsewhere,

    • John Reid

      My I remind readers that Alan giles isn’t a member of the labour party and votes elsewhere,

    • John Reid

      My I remind readers that Alan giles isn’t a member of the labour party and votes elsewhere,

    • John Reid

      My I remind readers that Alan giles isn’t a member of the labour party and votes elsewhere,

      • AlanGiles

        A fact I haven’t disguised John. I voted Labour from 1964-2007. Then came Freud and Purnell.

        I voted Green in 2010 and when I think people like you, who never lose an opportunity to take a bash at the left – even when they are not to blame  for what you perceive as major transgressions – even pretending it was the left and not the New Labourites who wanted an increase in detention and surveillance – when you rewrite history, and – forgive me for saying this – somebody whose postings are sometimes incoherent and ill-written, then I see no future for me with Labour in Havering. Or for anybody else for that matter. You don’t believe in a “broad church” Mr Reid, you believe in a nice little right wing chapel.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

          I am sure that the incredible success of New Labour in NOT winning White Van Man’s vote in Havering should be noted. In fact the last MP in a seat fully within havering was John Cryer who has no time for New Labour

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

        But he holds views far closer to what social democracy and socialism are and should be than you do, John. 

    • John Reid

      My I remind readers that Alan giles isn’t a member of the labour party and votes elsewhere,

  • AlanGiles

    I would remind LL readers that – believe it or not John P Reid is the secretary of the Havering area Labour party. With his constant taunts against “the left” and “throwing money” I find it hard to believe it myself sometimes. Go and join the coalition John – they’d love you.

  • Serbitar

    It’s not “welfare to work” that a majority of us have a problem with but “welfare to workfare” or even “welfare to the workhouse” which definitely seemed to be the direction that welfare policy was heading while Gordon Brown glowered as Prime Minister and James Purnell and Yvette Cooper simpered malignantly as successive Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions.

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