Ed exposes himself….
Ed Milibands speech today will no doubt be hailed but whether it deserves to be is another question entirely. Certainly, he exposed the crass opportunism of his and the Labour leaderships attack on Unite in one startling move, declaring his support for open primaries. If the open primary system were in place then nothing that Unite are alleged to have done in Falkirk or in any other constituency would be in any way a contravention of the rules. Indeed, such a system would allow Conservative supporters to vote in Labour selections. This new kind of tactical voting regularly occurs in American politics. Introducing ‘registration’ is neither here nor there, all you have to do is register as supporting one Party and then switch the register you are on when your primary comes around. If anything as a system it is more open to abuse than the current system of candidate selection. So, how can Mr Miliband keep a straight face, support open primaries and at the same time, attack the ‘disgusting’ alleged activities of Unite in Falkirk?
Let’s be honest, Labour’s leadership has a problem with Unite because they have developed a strategy and are prepared to back that strategy with organisation and resources, it has nothing to do with a valiant defense of ‘democracy’, something the Labour leadership rekindles the flame of a passionate affair with every time the left gets a bit uppity.
Having said all that, there were good things in the Miliband speech. The ‘opt-in’ approach to individual union member affiliation is the correct one and surely, thankfully, spells the end of the electoral college and union bloc vote at conference. Spending caps are pretty pointless and futile because they are always circumnavigated (again, ask any participant in American politics) and are gesture politics at its worst. Coupled with primaries spending caps actually potentially wind up promoting a more exclusive, not more open, politics because those who start from a resource disadvantage will never make the cap nor have the resources to campaign in a primary properly. All the evidence from American politics is that most of Mr Milibands prescriptions make the dependency of politicians upon money greater and make politics more, not less, exclusive.
Overall, the speech did little to reinvent British politics or indeed Labour Party politics. Ed Miliband has no interest in ending Labour ‘machine’ politics because he is the Labour machine. Some people within the Party would do well to remember that.