Like Thatcher – Ed Miliband is a “Common Ground” politician

October 17, 2012 4:23 pm

Many people are asking, given the austerity drive of this “party of the rich” led government, the effects of which are really going to hammer home come April of next year, whether Ed Miliband can lean to the left when challenging the government now and coming into the next election in 2015?

Whether or not he can, realistically, many commentators now believe he is pitching to the centre-ground; an assumption which has been made after Ed’s focus on “One Nation” during his conference speech earlier this month.

So political wisdom would tell us that Ed clearly sees a gap in the market worth pursuing on the centre, which leads us naturally to ask: where is Cameron situated these days?

Has he got the backs of the Tory left? At a recent event put on by the think tank IPPR, David Skelton of Policy Exchange pointed out that a large part of the so-called class of 2010 (who Cameron presides over) explicitly carry the message of looking to help the poor, those on low-incomes and the blue-collar “strivers”. To paraphrase William Hague, the compassion to reach out to everybody – in a way which characterised Tory One Nationism – is not a bolt-on extra, and exists right at the top of the Conservative party today.

But against this notion, Tim Bale of the University of Sussex, also speaking at the IPPR event, exemplified in his new essay, Whither the Tory Left, the rift between the LibDems and the Tories, that some like Nick Bowles were hoping to avoid, as evidence for the disappearance of the Tories’ left flank – to the extent that the Tories are without anyone to emphasise what unites the coalition parties rather than divides them.

For Bale, Cameron reverted back to (Thatcherite) type after the 2010 economic downturn and the Tory left has never really regained its ground.

So how does Cameron operate around the centre-ground? During the question and answer session at the IPPR Philip Blond, the director of Respublica, explained that the Tories have never won over the centre while pitching to the right. What instead Cameron tries to do today is drag the centre, kicking and screaming, to Thatcherism.

History is not on Cameron’s side here. In trying to spread privilege, as he said in his speech at Tory conference, he is trying to expose the all-important centre point of the electorate to a space it has never tried to occupy. He is not trying to redefine the centre, rather shift it right.

Others take a different view. In light of UKIP gains in popularity, nearing the Liberal Democrats and overtaking them in Wales, Brian Monteith wrote earlier this year that Cameron does not seek to “move this sandbank but sees it as a landing ground to plant his flag.” In other words, the centre for Cameron is the ends, shifting the right towards it will be the means of a majority.

Wiser people than myself, thus, see in Cameron all shades; he is clearly something of a rorschach test. So how is Ed Miliband going to challenge him?

Is One Nation a “land grab”? Is Ed’s pitch to an abandoned conservatism a cynical ploy? I don’t think so. Ed Miliband is practising a set of politics that he has pursued for some time now. He is not playing politics, he is equipped with a noble set of politics that Cameron has been unable to achieve – blamed, in no small part, on the confusion of his brand and the ultimate direction of the Conservative Party.

Once upon a time, civic conservatism was the high ideal of the Conservative Party, as spelled out by David Willetts. But now through the development of conservative (with a small ‘c’) themes, Ed has not simply taken over where the Conservatives were once a force to be reckoned with, but has started to flesh out his brand in areas where the Tories have already failed to deliver.

He has done this by being the Common Ground politician.

How we know Ed isn’t just “land-grabbing” is that the themes he is developing have been long brewing. By talking so movingly about his background during his speech feeds into an empathetic instinct that has been missing in politics for a long time.

As David Clark has recently pointed out, Thatcher, also a common ground politician (hard to imagine in hindsight), used ideas of freedom and individualism to win the support of many traditional Labour voters in the late 1970s. Similarly, Ed brings with him another narrative of social patriotism and egalitarian populism to broaden his appeal in the next election.

The mood music is in full swing, we need solid economic soundings, but Ed is going the right way about winning his masses. Perceived wisdom says you need to woo the centre to win the day, but if Ed can find the common ground, by proving that his, and not Cameron’s, philosophy and vision is substantive, then we can be in a good place to fight the election in 2015.

  • williamtheconker

    I think you’ll find he is Nick BOLES, not Bowles. And surprisingly, for someone whose father was once Director-General of the National Trust, he seems hell-bent on destroying our green and pleasant land by agreeing to industrial development wherever those entrepreneurs want to do it. 
    Ed Miliband’s One Nation toryism is a ‘land-grab’ – but the Tories have a real land-grab in progress.

  • Dave Postles

    ‘By talking so movingly about his background during his speech feeds into
    an empathetic instinct that has been missing in politics for a long
    time.’

    Give over.  Do you really think that his background resonates with the rest of us? 

  • Dave Postles

    ‘By talking so movingly about his background during his speech feeds into
    an empathetic instinct that has been missing in politics for a long
    time.’

    Give over.  Do you really think that his background resonates with the rest of us? 

  • Dave Postles

    ‘By talking so movingly about his background during his speech feeds into
    an empathetic instinct that has been missing in politics for a long
    time.’

    Give over.  Do you really think that his background resonates with the rest of us? 

  • postageincluded

    I wouldn’t want to compare you to a semi-house-trained polecat, Carl, but  Norman Tebbit has been telling the Tories for a year now that Miliband was “tiptoeing onto the Common Ground”, and warning them that they shouldn’t let him get away with it.

    I’m not entirely convinced by this theory (I rather think that winning an election is like writing a best-seller – everyone  can tell you how it was done in the past, but nobody can really tell you how to do it now).  Nevertheless, saying things that the electorate are already thinking can do no harm, and I think that’s what “Ed’s Speech” did, and it’s where Cameron’s  failed

  • Hugh

    He didn’t really talk about his background. Ed’s background: Oxford, TV, policy, Havard, politics. I don’t remember much about that.

Latest

  • Comment Scotland Scotland: we need a federal future

    Scotland: we need a federal future

    Gordon Brown is right, the work on a more sustainable settlement for the UK must begin the day after a prospective No vote – the status quo is morally and politically indefensible. As has been much noted, an overwhelming number of Scots are in favour of more powers for the Scottish Parliament. If the desire for autonomy under a common unionist structure is not accommodated, it will only push more Scots into the nationalist camp. We must not simply win […]

    Read more →
  • News Video Alistair Darling does the Ice Bucket Challenge

    Alistair Darling does the Ice Bucket Challenge

    Alistair Darling has become the fifth Labour MP to take a soaking for the Ice Bucket Challenge. Earlier this week, we saw Merseyside MPs Stephen Twigg, Luciana Berger, Alison McGovern and Steve Rotherham get drenched for a good cause. Unfortunately, no further MPs were nominated to take part until Scottish actor James McAvoy put the pressure on Scottish referendum opponents Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond to do their bit. Darling has wasted no time – and the staff at Better […]

    Read more →
  • Comment 11 ways CLPs should invest in their online presence before the election

    11 ways CLPs should invest in their online presence before the election

    With an election nine months in the future and with the Conservative’s enjoying a fiscal advantage over us in terms of election funds, it’s imperative that we make use  of the resources available. For MP’s and Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) in marginal areas, one of the most cost effective and efficient investments that can be made is developing an appealing web presence and a dynamic and interactive relationship with the electorate via the various social media streams. At the moment, […]

    Read more →
  • News David Jamieson elected as Labour win West Midlands PCC by-election

    David Jamieson elected as Labour win West Midlands PCC by-election

    Labour’s David Jamieson has been elected as the new Police and Crime Commissioner of the West Midlands, following yesterday’s by-election. Jamieson received 50.8% of first preferences across the seven councils voting, meaning that second preferences did not have to be taken into account. The full result is: Labour – 102,561 (50.8%) Conservatives – 54,091 (26.8%) UKIP – 32,187 (15.9%) Lib Dems – 13,056 (6.5%) Due to the lack of independent candidates Labour, the Tories and UKIP all saw their share of […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland We shouldn’t be forced to choose whether we’re Scottish or British – we can be both

    We shouldn’t be forced to choose whether we’re Scottish or British – we can be both

    Less than a month to go until Scotland’s referendum and I’m now sixty meetings into my 100 open air street meetings across Scotland. I marked the halfway point in Glasgow city centre’s Buchanan Street. Hundreds of people joined in. The City Council Leader Gordon Matheson and I enjoyed the good old fashioned politics in the Glasgow drizzle. Fast forward a couple of days and after campaign stops in Bathgate and Linlithgow with Michael Connarty MP, I was off to Edinburgh […]

    Read more →