The knives are out…
3 days into 2012 and Labour’s beleaguered leadership is in big trouble. If the evidence of the last few days is anything to go by then this is the year that Ed will most likely face the first attempt to openly unseat him. The Guardian has been spearheading a viscious campaign against the younger Miliband’s stewardship of Labour.
The use of The Guardian, is, I think significant. Up to this point the paper of choice has been The Times. Indeed, it became something of a mouthpiece for David Miliband supporters during the leadership campaign. Coming from the Murdoch stable however, makes The Times something of an outsider when it comes to Labour Party politics. I think its naturally regarded with suspicion by Party activists. The Guardian, while suffering for its endorsement of the Coalition and electoral support for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 remains a more influential paper in Labour ranks.
Many saw the Liam Bryne-benfits story in the Daily Mail in the context of The Guardian assualt – however, this is fundamentally mistaken in my eyes. The Mail has absolutely no purchase within Labour ranks – indeed, many saw its publication, rather stupidly, as a deliberate strategy to stir up discontent on Labour’s left. If that were the case, then the Mail was a stupid choice as an outlet. Far more likely is the leak of the Bryne speech leak was something that Miliband was fully aware of and authorised in a rather desperate bid to charm Mail readers.
In the House of Cards, Patrick Wolton tells Francis Urqhart that the public need time to get used to the idea of a new leader. This is exactly what is happening here – the public is being prepared for the necessity of Ed’s replacement. You chip and chip away until, eventually when the right pretext emerges you push all the way. A likely pretext for a coup attempt would be the loss of the London Mayoral Race.
If Labour loses in London it will be the second serious election loss following Scotland. Of course, council elections are serious but success in them can be much more easily ascribed to anti-government feeling. The elections in Scotland and now London are ones with a much greater national resonance and a loss in London will confirm the suspiscion that no matter what happens in your local town hall, people are not prepared to send Labour back to government in Westminster.
So, what should the left do? I think its fair to say a majority on the left want to defend Miliband, especially when the main charge is led by the Labour right. However, this is problematic mainly because Miliband’s problems are manifestly as much personal than with his politics. Much though we may wish to live in a world where all that matters is the ideas, we don’t and to fail to even acknowledge these issues is to blind ourselves to the cold hard realities of modern politics.
Secondly, frankly, the politics aren’t actually that good. Ed talks in leftish sounding clip notes which may impress many but don’t impress me especially when they are accompanied by barbarically stupid positions on, for example welfare. Sadly, however these noises off are just enough to ensure that when Ed fails, the left will take the blame – a process that will be aided by the left visibly and fanatically defending him. Expediency and principle therefore demand the left asset itself independently of Miliband. If the left doesn’t then quite simply it will go down with him and that would be a tragedy for it and Labour.