Ed Miliband interview: Part two – on selections, community organising and the future of the Labour Party

April 1, 2013 12:19 pm

On Thursday I travelled with Ed Miliband and his community organising “guru” Arnie Graf to Carlisle and Preston to see some of the work the party has been doing in those areas. On the train between Carlisle and Preston – over fish and chips – I interviewed Miliband. You can read the first half of that interview – on immigration, the NHS, tuition fees, the welfare sanction revolt and Lord Ahmed here. The second half of the interview - on selections, community organising and what the party will look like in 2020 - is below:

On Community Organising:

“I think it’s absolutely intrinsic to the General Election campaign – an essential part of it. It is about doing politics differently – it actually builds on Movement for Change and a lot of what David talked about in the leadership campaign. One of the key elements of it – first of all that the Labour Party’s job is not just to say “vote for us” – it’s to say “how can we change this community?”

“Secondly, the job of local Labour Party’s is not to be half a dozen people trying to knock on ten thousand doors, but to grow the base, and that’s really important. Arnie’s very simple thing is that you should go out and talk to people about why they joined the Labour Party, why they might join the Labour Party and how they want to make a difference.”

“It’s about a different way of organizing. It’s going to be at the heart of the election campaign. We’re going to be training a thousand people in the key seats, not just paid organisers, but community leaders to mobilise people across the seat and across the country. So I think it’s really really important.”

“Lets be frank…the way we do politics is broken for a lot of people, and we need to find a different way of doing it. And this is really important for that.”

On what Labour Party will look like in 2020 (and will we still have members?):

“We still have members – hopefully hundreds of thousands of members. Registered supporters, and people who are sort of loosely connected to the party. I think it’s a party that is organised at a local level in a way that isn’t just a diminishing number of people who do all of the work, but is a genuine movement.”

“It’s about a base that expands and stays in touch – and a leadership that is also in touch with that base.”

On how we get more candidates who are rooted in their communities:

“It’s something we’re doing with the future candidates programme. It’s something Jon Trickett has been doing going round the country trying to encourage more people from different class backgrounds to come into politics. In a way the responsibility is partly with local parties. Local parties have to try and select people – I don’t want to sound like I’m pulling up the drawbridge for former Special Advisers having been a Special Adviser, but diversity really matters. Not just gender diversity, but lets get people from a whole different range of backgrounds. From the military – Dan Jarvis is a great member of parliament we’d like to have more people like that. From business. You’ve got to try and look like the country you seek to represent.”

“I’d encourage people to get in touch with the Future Candidates Programme and try and become part of that.”

On selections:

“I’m not going impose some “Ed’s List” from Whitehall. It’s for local parties to make the judgement about who they want.”

“I don’t think [party staff and MPs] should be hands off when it comes to who gets to the starting line. I think if you’re hands off then you get a narrow field. But once they’re at the starting like I think that although people will have their own people they want to support, you’ve got to leave it to party members to make their decisions. And that’s the way it should be.”

On talking to people on trains:

“The best conversations are the conversations on the trains. I really enjoy it. It’s the best way of grounding your politics in what people are saying every day.”

“The system is broken and Westminster feels so out of touch. It’s not just a phrase, it’s the reality.”

On feeling like a potential Prime Minister:

“I’ve always felt that was possible, even when other people were more skeptical. I definitely get stopped more, and I get more reactions as I become better known, that’s inevitable. I like it. To be fair to people, the people who don’t like you tend not to come up to you, and the people who are positive or neutral or interested tend to.”

And finally – what is he reading at the moment?

“I’m reading Marina Lewycka – “Various Pets Alive and Dead” – sorry that isn’t exactly Michael Sandel.”

  • AlanGiles

    ““The best conversations are the conversations on the trains. I really enjoy it. It’s the best way of grounding your politics in what people are saying every day.”

    In other words, follow rather than lead. Steer a populist course, even if you don’t agree with it.

    The utter banality and sterility of Ed Miliband’s answers almost makes you feel sorry for the man. ALMOST…. what I frankly feel is a mixture of dour boredom and contempt – he sounds like an insecure applicant for a job trying not to offend or put off his prospective employer.

    It is as if he is desperately treading water until Jon Crudas delivers his script to him, anxious to say nothing in case he gets it wrong.

    A good thing Mark had other reasons for his trip, because if it had just been to interview EM with these trite turgid responses, you would seriously have to wonder if the journey had been really necessary

    • aracataca

      Have you explored the possibility of going on to Green Party (as you’re a fan) blogs and insulting their leader?

      • Dave Postles

        To be quite candid, with its current stance, the Labour Party leadership would benefit enormously by acknowledging some of the criticism directed at it here. I suspect, however, that our fingers are wasted and that no one listens in here. Certainly, no one engages in constructive dialogue.

        • aracataca

          Agreed – but that’s because it’s full of trolls. Oh happy day when we can have a proper debate on here rather than refuting ludicrous suggestions like Euan Blair is going to be parachuted into the South Shields seat, or that the voters of Eastleigh voted Lib Dem rather than Labour because Labour’s policies are too close to the coalition, or we don’t need to build any more houses as there are enough, or cancer patients are merely looking for sympathy- I mean how useful or constructive is any of this? But the trolls are on here 24/7 – what do we do just let them dominate the site?

          • rekrab

            Stop lying!!!!!!!!!!

          • aracataca

            There’s no need to shout. What lies?

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

    April 1st, 2013 – the date the NHS died.

    Excellent report from Owen Jones*. Owen writes: “The NHS has been killed, murdered, assassinated by a Tory government. The question now is – do we have enough faith to bring it back to life?”

    And impressive coverage of the War on the Poor can be found in today’s Daily Mirror.

    * http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/farewell-to-the-nhs-19482013-a-dear-and-trusted-friend-finally-murdered-by-tory-ideologues-8555503.html

    • Dave Postles

      recte: murdered by the Coalition – do not exonerate the LibDems, not least Burstow, accomplices to this atrocity.

    • aracataca

      Today is a terrible day! Terrific piece from the Indy. You may not know Dave but I was diagnosed with skin cancer last year ( sorry Alan it is not fatal) and my hospital Hinchingbroke has been completely privatised and is now run by Circle. The CEO of Circle gave £50k to the Tory Party.I had to wait 6 months for my carcinoma to be excised during which time it doubled in size leaving a large and permanent disc shaped scar on my face. However, Dave is right what about the role of the Fibs in all this?

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

        Sorry to hear about your condition, hope all is well.

        But by now everyone must know of Labour’s own privatisation of the NHS – if not read Alyson Pollock’s account in NHS plc or Leys and Player’s The Plot Against the NHS – both available from amazon. Sorry, but is has to be said mate – New Labour and Tories: two cheeks of the same ar*e.

      • AlanGiles

        ” ( sorry Alan it is not fatal) ”

        Please don’t judge everybody down to your own standards. On the two occassions you have mentioned this in recent weeks, you have told me to “get lost” when I have offered my commiserations.

        I have never wished anybody personal harm, so this remark is lower than a snake’s belly and just shows to what depths you will go to try to impugn the reputations of people you don’t like. Seriously, what an unpleasant little mind you have got. Still, it enabled you to trot out your “hilarious” Fib joke for the umpteenth time.

        • aracataca

          I don’t want your sympathy I don’t want your abuse either.

          • AlanGiles

            Just proved my point.

            Totaly graceless. If you don’t want sympathy, it is strange that you have mentioned your ailment three times in just over a week.

          • aracataca

            Twice (actually) in relevant discussions.

          • Gabrielle

            That’s unfair. It’s not strange at all – he was referring to the deterioration in patient care at his local hospital.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnDClare John D Clare

    TBH Ed Miliband is correct – politics is broken for most people. It has produced a Party leadership which can do a deal with the Tories to overturn a legal judgement in favour of the workers … and be utterly unable to appreciate that it has done anything wrong.

    I am currently knocking doors, and it is the oft-repeated mantra that politicians do not listen. They are correct. The overwhelming, abiding fear of the rank-and-file in the Party is that all this ‘engagement’ stuff is a smokescreen to regain a bit of credibilty and get back into power – whereupon the PLP will promptly set about doing exactly what it wants.

    And, to be fair, there is no one jot of evidence coming out of the current Shadow Cabinet that these fears are unfounded.

    • AlanGiles

      Very true and very honest I especially hope everyone will take this message on board Especially the first sentence where, as you say, they don’t realise they have done anything wong

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      “”I am currently knocking doors”

      This is interesting. We do not answer our door to an unexpected knock: normally it is some fundamentally useless salesman (and if a political party knocks without an invitation, they are fundamentally useless salesmen). Our friends have our fixed and mobile telephone numbers, and if they need to get in touch with us, their names come onto the screen. We do not answer the telephone if the number is not one of our friends – that is what the answerphone is for. And if you knock twice or push through our letterbox some partisan literature, do you not expect us to take viscerally against whatever agitprop you push through the door? It is the nearly the same with the “paper spam” we get from the pizza delivery people – it all goes straight to the blue recycling bin, unread and un-lamented. But the pizza people are real people, and maybe once in 3 months we will order one. Not the political nonsense, however.

      In short terms, we are completely unlikely to be taken in by your blandishments, and the more you try, the more likely we are to actively tell our cohort of contacts and friends of your uselessness, and to actively seek to defeat whatever whitewash you are trying to “peddle”. (This does also apply to the tories and Lib Democrats, so it is not an anti-Labour opinion). Above all, do not send some 20 year old from London to try to tell me or my wife of what is best for rural Cambridgeshire. Apart from the fact that the 20 year old from London has not a clue about anything much at all, he (or normally she) knows nothing of the specific problems of the NHS in rural areas, or of the national racing economy or the state of veterinary challenges in rural areas, the European race horse directives, the local primary school, the parking on the B1098 in villages…

      So, pre-engage. Basically, how do you make myself or my wife even open the door to you, or answer the telephone? You as a Party could at least start with a non-joke Leader and some policies.

      • Redshift1

        You’re a strange person frankly. Most people do answer to any knock as long as it isn’t for example late at night or they are watching a football match, etc

        Your entire contact with the outside world actually sounds incredibly controlled, like you don’t want to meet anyone you don’t already know.

        I don’t think in this context you can assume anyone is like you.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Well, I’m a disabled woman who joined the Labour Party in January and according to our chairman (in Nick Clegg’s constituency), I am not allowed to speak (let alone stand) until next January. They are not interested in my concerns about Justice, nor my warnings that unless Labour take a stand on cuts to legal aid and limiting judicial review, democracy, the rule of law and our human rights are threatened. By the time next January comes they will realise what I have been rattling on about, but by then it will be too late. Our community will suffer.

    Justice denied by politicians of all stripes
    “Either we need a new political party or else the Labour party needs to start showing it really cares about justice. The very fabric of our constitution – democracy and the rule of law – is what is at stake.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/mar/31/justice-denied-by-all-politicians

    Legal aid changes spark solicitor warnings
    BBC NEWS, 1 April 2013
    Solicitors have warned that people may start “taking the law into their own hands” as a result of changes made to legal aid in England and Wales.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21991945

    • aracataca

      It’s to stop abuse Bee. You have to be in the party for a year before standing as a party candidate.

      • BusyBeeBuzz

        If it’s to “stop abuse”, then they assume new members are guilty before they prove themselves innocent. This attitude doesn’t entice me to renew my membership next year. They claim that they want to attract new members, particularly women and people with disabilities. As someone who has been campaigning for decades I find it insulting to be treated with such suspicion. If they want my portfolio as evidence, they only need to ask. What they fail to recognise is that I am one of the millions of people who are giving Labour a chance to prove themselves to be on the side of the people. Labour went into an illegal war, pocketed expenses and did many other dirty deeds. It is Labour who have abused their position, not me or the many other new members.

      • Redshift1

        This rule can be waived (for council seats) if the local party ask the regional office.

  • http://twitter.com/citizen_colin Colin McCulloch

    “It’s something we’re doing with the future candidates programme. It’s
    something Jon Trickett has been doing going round the country trying to
    encourage more people from different class backgrounds to come into
    politics. In a way the responsibility is partly with local parties.
    Local parties have to try and select people – I don’t want to sound like
    I’m pulling up the drawbridge for former Special Advisers having been a
    Special Adviser, but diversity really matters. Not just gender
    diversity, but lets get people from a whole different range of
    backgrounds. From the military – Dan Jarvis is a great member of
    parliament we’d like to have more people like that. From business.
    You’ve got to try and look like the country you seek to represent.”

    Of course the reality is that it’s the same old faces and types going for selection; careerist Councillors and Graduate/Researcher/Assistant pathways. Too much empire building goes on on the way to becoming an MP; we need to parachute in people from different backgrounds before they get tainted by the CLP scheming, wheeling and dealing.

    • aracataca

      Get more PPCs like Lee Sherriff, Lisa Forbes and Lara Norris I say.

  • Dave Postles
  • Dave Postles

    They’re murdering Donkey Smith on The Independent website – doing the work that Byrne ought to be doing.

    • AlanGiles

      I know it is April 1st, but here is the sickest joke of the day:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9964767/Iain-Duncan-Smith-I-could-live-on-53-per-week.html

      Duncan-Prat obviously doesn’t know that in the real world, outside Westminster “ordinary” people do not get food allowances, travel allowances etc, and if they defraud the public with their expenses, they are allowed to get away with calling it a “misunderstanding”. of course, if a benefit claimant did the same thing he could be prosecuted.
      Also, of course Smith lives in a mansion totally rent free.
      Does Byrne – or Miliband – feel absolutely no sense of shame consorting with this worm?

      • rekrab

        What a 1st class Prat Duncan is. Why doesn’t he put his money where his mouth is and give his entire MP cabinet salary up?
        As for Ed, why doesn’t he come clean and admit his side of that house of no principles is as much to blame for these cuts and rather than trying to win an election by applying double standards, why wont he declare that a labour government will reverse these savage cuts to the most vulnerable people in our society.

        • AlanGiles

          I remember some years ago, before Channel 4 became the cookery and embarrassing bodies channel, they presented several documentaries, where MPs of various parties attempted to live on benefits for a fortnight. Of all of those who went through with it, all – even Conservatives, said they didn’t understand how people managed.

          Smith should be made to put his money where his big mouth is.

          Actually, the annoying thing is, had the law worked properly in this country, so that MPs were treated just like “ordinary” people – and Smith had been arrested and charged with fraud over “Betsygate” and other of his expense fiddling, had he been found guilty he would have had to live for a few months on prisoners wages. This should have applied to MPs regardless of sex or party: it is a rather satisfying proposition to think of Smith & Jimbo Purnell , who could have been charged with the same offence, as two old lags locked up taking turns on a bucket.

          • rekrab

            @Alan, I remember it well, the shysters ran a mile.
            It really is the return of the nasty party and the “Kids from the Black-stuff” should be aired again.

  • http://twitter.com/bencobley Ben Cobley

    I like the different way of approaching political organisation. However alongside all the touchy-feely stuff you also need to stake a claim for people’s loyalty. That is about having a strong political agenda that people out there can sign up to and gather around. The old ways of media management which are still very much with us mitigate against this though.

  • MarkHoulbrook

    “Cela va sans dire. Spes supra sydera”

    “The easiest thing in the world is to knock a man down. The hardest thing is to keep em there”

    Well done Ed.

  • rekrab

    Another thing……..Osborne’s own OBR projections say that there will be 8% unemployment come 2015, some 2 million unemployed (probably more) are being sanctioned by a government who are admittedly keeping them unemployed.

  • rekrab

    And the former housing minister try’s to defend the welfare changes outside his rather big home. What a bunch!

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservative-party-chairman-grant-shappsattacked-for-using-his-own-children-in-bedroom-tax-row-8555697.html

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