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


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.”

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