Marching for the Alternative…and why Ed should be there…
On Saturday, 100’s of thousands will be taking to the streets of London to ‘March for the Alternative’. Rob Marchant, writing on Labour Uncut, feels that it is wrong for Ed Miliband to be there. Certainly, I am a little disappointed that Ed is the only politician being allowed to speak and would have welcomed a contribution from Caroline Lucas, for example, but still I am glad he is speaking.
Looking at Rob’s reasons, I don’t think they are as compelling as he suggests:-
- Labour didn’t organise it: And? If our leader is only going to ever turn up to events we can organise and carefully stage-manage then heaven help us all. He wouldn’t really get out alot and that would send the clear signal we haven’t moved on from the Blairite control-freaky that eventually hollowed the Party out.
- Speaking to the wrong people: In my eyes, Rob’s view of who will attend is a little jaundiced. Not only will it be trade unionists and the ‘usual suspects’ but I would suspect a fair number of community campaigners who are being badly effected by the cuts will also be there. Leaving this aside, it’s a little odd to suggest the leader of the *Labour* Party should ignore these people in any case. Opening up a dialogue with this core Labour group is exactly what the leadership should and desperately needs to be doing.
- The visuals: In my reply to 1 I argued how the visuals could actually be presented in a very positive way – ie, a break from our past managerial and technocratic style. So, in his argument, Rob is skewing the visuals through his already biased looking-glass and giving us only one possible version of how this could look.
- The message could be distorted: Here I think Rob has a valid point. He rightly accuses our economic narrative of trying to straddle two horses at once. However, given my politics I am naturally not as concerned about the falling-off as he is. The bump as we hit the ground might well provide a necessary corrective to our current course.
- The ‘in-the-pocket’ argument: Again, I am not as concerned about this as Rob is, only naturally given my politics. Nonetheless, I think in both points 4 and 5 he betrays a lack of self-confidence in his own and Labour’s position on the cuts, which is telling. Also, Ed did freely promise to attend this march in some form so I am not convinced a politician actually fulfilling their promise is a bad thing. Actually, by saying it will look like he was strong-armed; Rob is projecting that lack of self-confidence onto Ed.
So, credit where its due, Ed is doing the right thing here. Saturday presents a huge opportunity for the currently scattered anti-government forces to cohere into one solid fist and to remove this government. Labour should be seeking to harness that energy, not shunning it. It’s Labour’s challenge is not just to harness it in removing the government but also in the necessary radical re-building of society and the economy after the ruin brought by the crash and on the earth being scorched by this reckless and blind government. Yes, there will be challenges along the way and things wont be plain sailing but is that ever the way in politics?