July 8th, 2010
Plenty of Labour members are still mulling over their Labour leader options, and I am glad that they have been given the space and time to do so. After all, we’re not just looking for a Leader of the Opposition, important though that is. We’re looking for a Prime Minister, someone who understands their people, and can represent them with competency, honesty and dedication at all levels. As you are aware, I believe that Ed Miliband is the best candidate for that job, and here’s a bit of reading (and watching) material that says why:
Pushing for equality in marriage, overturning the gay blood ban and tackling homophobia in Pink News.
Ed tells Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian of why we must end the politics of triangulation, and why we can’t blame the electorate for Labour’s election loss.
In a frank and extensive interview with the New Statesman, Ed talks about future coalitions, and why we can’t allow the spectre of New Labour to close down debate.
In an interview with Polly Toynbee, Ed talks about being a constructive opposition, his stance on Iraq and why climate change must remain high on the agenda:
Ed speaks to the Western Morning News about the rights of agricultural workers, and why constituency boundaries should respect local identities.
Here’s when Ed Miliband weighed in on the prison reform debate. “I don’t think we should try to out-right the right on crime.”
Left Foot Forward interview: Ed talks in depth about the economy, climate change, and why inequality should always be a priority.
LibCon interview: Ed talks about mutualism, feminism and being British and English.
When Ed spoke on the role of the state, the individual and the future of social democracy, it represented an important shift in his leadership campaign – why tackling inequality was his priority, how he envisaged our economy of the future and why we should all be able to choose to work to live, rather than being forced to live to work.
His response to the BP oil crisis reveals his long-term outlook and global wisdom.
An excellent piece of debate, supported by Rachel Reeves, where Chris Huhne’s economic scaremongering is torn to pieces:
Endorsements from Neil Kinnock and Tony Benn.
An interesting piece in the New Statesman that confirms the whispers pre-election – Ed wanted to be more radical in the 2010 manifesto.
It already feels like so long ago when Ed announced his candidacy, and he has emphasised the message of fairness and how that must inform all of our policy consistently since that time. But I think this clip also shows something else about Ed, that is, how he makes people feel: inspired, secure and happy.
Stay tuned for more links as I have time to add them…
The first time I saw Ed Miliband live was at Latitude Festival, where he and 10:10 founder Franny Armstrong were doing a Q&A on the response to the threat of climate change. At that time, I had only been a member of the party for a few months, and I don’t think I really appreciated how well he did, assuming this sort of event to be more popular among politicians than it is in reality. The questions came from dedicated environmental activists, and got right to the heart of areas where government policy just hadn’t quite reached yet. “Would you support a ban on domestic flight?” “How do we stop state-owned banks investing into companies that are devastating the Canadian oil sands?” “Must we go nuclear?”
Franny naturally encouraged people to challenge him, but at the end of the session, she made a couple of important points. Firstly, she highlighted the Britain’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, which detailed exactly how Britain would meet its legislated commitments to reduce emissions by 34% by 2020, and by 80% by 2050. She said that the assembled crowd should not underestimate how much of a step the Department of Energy and Climate Change, with Ed at the helm, had taken with these moves. She then remarked that Labour were clearly going to lose the next election (prescient). But she also remarked that in the next few years, climate change and sustainable living were going to creep up the agenda, as it would become harder and harder to ignore the effects of unpredictable weather and dwindling resources.
Turning to look at Ed, she said “in five years time, those factors could be what make you the next Prime Minister.”
From this vantage point, a Labour Prime Minister, Ed or anyone else, feels a long way off. Labour is at an interesting point, where the party needs to find a balance between embracing and enhancing the positive changes made under the New Labour project – while also acknowledging its failures, and in so doing, re-entrenching the progressive values that we all care about into the heart of our vision for the UK. I don’t think any of us are naive enough to think that we have nothing left to do with regards to eradicating inequalities in health, wealth and social capital (far from it) – or that we haven’t done things which have alienated people who we used to count on to support us.
We need a leader who not only understands that, but who won’t be afraid to make that argument, to hold people to account, and to do it with fire and passion. We also need someone who will draw us all together on the progressive left – someone who understands that a healthy exchange of different views that spring from the same values is a good thing, and not something that should tear us apart. I’m not saying that the other candidates don’t have some of these qualities, and others besides – but Ed has them all in abundance.
In the months since that Latitude Q&A, we have all seen the qualities in Ed that will make him an inspiring, capable leader. He listened to eco activists who told him to consult with the wonderful Professor David Mackay (author of ‘Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air’) on climate change policy, and ultimately hired him as an advisor. At Copenhagen, we saw him stay awake for days, and yet, he was sharp enough to act when he did to take control, halt proceedings, reassess the situation, and ultimately ensured that even though we didn’t get the deal we needed, we didn’t walk away with nothing, rather, we had something recognised and substantive to build on – plans for which were laid out in the ‘Beyond Copenhagen’ plan. When Gordon Brown was at his lowest ebb, Ed Miliband was among the first to leap to his defence, telling the circling sharks that people had underestimated Gordon his whole life, and that they shouldn’t make this mistake of doing it again.
And in the run-up to the election, the manifesto that he took a lead in authoring had real focus and ambition. This was notable in the area of welfare: “Are you for a residual welfare state that is just for the poor, which is the Tory position, or are you for a more inclusive welfare state? What the Tories are saying about child trust funds, child tax credits and Sure Start – they’re saying, ‘let’s residualise, let’s make the welfare state just for the poor’ but [this goes against] all the evidence in terms of maintaining public support [for the welfare state]. Why does Sure Start work as an institution? Because it brings people together.”
We have had some difficult weeks since we lost the election. But when Ed launched his leadership campaign, I was instantly assured of what I had known for some time – that Ed’s stall for Labour leader is already prepared: his brilliant track record – his willingness to listen, to evaluate and to act. And the early stages of his campaign – notably the launch of the Living Wage campaign – have assured me that he will practice what he preaches, and will take the entire movement with him.
I trust him absolutely with our future, and will support his campaign every step of the way.
Categories: Labour Regeneration
Tags: 10:10, climate change, copenhagen, ed miliband, franny armstrong, gordon brown, latitude festival, living wage, nuclear power, oil, sure start, transport, welfare
In the second of this two-part series on the main party manifestos, we are going to look more specifically at what provision they make for community groups, community networks and the third sector.
First is the most ambitious and high-profile of the related policies – the Conservative Party’s Big Society idea. Earlier today, Michael Gove went on the record as saying that it was intended to reflect the messages that Dick Atkinson of Balsall Heath Forum and others have been pitching: the ‘Welfare Society, not the ‘Welfare State’. Indeed, David Cameron and his shadow cabinet colleagues have been frequent visitors to the Balsall Heath neighbourhood: Red Tory thinker Phillip Blond gave the Chamberlain Forum lecture there last November on the subject of ‘Welfare State – What Next?’, and Shadow Communities Secretary Caroline Spelman spoke on Community Self-Help in Birmingham in July.
This indicates that there is at least part of the Conservative Party that really gets the link between their politics and mutualism. However, the manifesto ultimately fails to set out a convincing picture of how and why the Big Society initiative will work. In particular, it fails to recognise why successful community groups and networks come to be so; why people give up their spare time to join neighbourhood groups. It isn’t because they have been told that they ought to, but because there are (generally non-cashable) rewards for doing so. The Conservatives should have emphasised self-help and fulfilment, but this has been lost to the imperative, an emphasis on compulsion and duty.
The Conservatives are also promising to use budgets to fund training for community organisers to help people set up and run neighbourhood groups. Who, in practice, are these independent community organisers? What makes them more of an expert on community groups than any other community activist? How would you even measure that, given the wide variety of things community groups do? This sort of ‘doing-to’ approach reads like an attempt to manage community activism, rather than respond, and learn, from it. Other blogs have raised the issue of where the money for these community organisers will come from – Cameron has indicated that it will come from the Futurebuilders programme, but that is not large enough to sustain a meaningful network of such organisers, so what would have to be given up for this scheme to work will remain to be seen.
Community groups don’t necessarily need more middle(wo)men. What they do need is public servants that are smart and appropriately trained, allowing them (at least) to understand that working with them is the only way of making a success of public services in the future. Cameron’s plans for the Big Society are a refreshing (or seem to be), and will help to push forward and reshape the discussion on co-production and community groups, but ultimately aren’t sufficiently robust enough to survive the twin pressures of budget cuts and the hostility of the old ‘Nasty Party’ dinosaurs who still thrive in parts of local and national government.
More specifically pertaining to the area of community asset transfer, all three parties seem to be pushing for the transfer of buildings and land to the ownership or control of voluntary and community groups. This already occurs in many areas, but is the sort of scheme which is empowering in principle, but does need to be kept a close eye on so that it is not abused – community groups need to know what they are taking on, and how the asset will work for them. The Conservatives have (once again) garnered the most media attention for their policy on communities and schools, believing that “appropriate providers, such as educational charities and parent groups,” should be able to set up schools – a policy which has attracted a great deal of discussion and censure. In the case of the Lib Dems, those schools would be accountable to local authorities, but it is less clear where accountability would lie in the case of the Conservatives.
Labour, for their part, promise to continue to promote Community Land Trusts, and to turn British Waterways into a mutually owned co-operative. There is also an emphasis on community-owned energy, an area which Labour has previous form in (e.g. The Low Carbon Communities Challenge), and which the Liberal Democrats also pledge their support for in their manifesto. Labour adds that they will also be supporting community shares that support investment into football clubs, pubs and shops, if elected. Indeed, in the area of mutualism, Labour seems to have (finally) re-embraced its sister party, The Co-operative Party, and promises mutualist solutions throughout its manifesto. “We want to see more local organisations run on co-operative principles with an expansion of Community Interest Companies and third sector mutual organisations that reinvest profits for the public good,” asserts the manifesto, explaining that this will be delivered via the Co-operative Party, Business Link, enterprise education and the Regional Development Agencies. The Liberal Democrats are similarly enthused, promising to turn Northern Rock into a building society, to transfer Post Office Ltd. into public ownership, as well as to establish a new “Mutuals, Co-operatives and Social Enterprises Bill to bring the law up to date and give responsibility for mutuals to a specific minister.”
In conclusion then, while the rhetoric and many of the ideas from all three parties are welcome in principle, the proposed solutions still have a rather managerial (rather than a mutualist or grassroots) slant, and this is likely to limit the potential of any co-production.
This blog was originally posted on Chamberlain Forum.