I have to admit, that while I don’t think Ed Miliband is doing a bad job, to date he hasn’t exactly set the party a light with dynamic inspiration and drive either. To be fair, he did pick up a very hard job, not only is he picking up the pieces of quite a broken party, but also the furore surrounding his election over his brother. Combine that with the constant blow-by-blow account of every PMQ’s and public speech he gives, the pressure has been on to inspire and lead. The Government has been very strong in highlighting the lack of policy that the Labour party have at the moment, and this has been picked up by the public too.
The reason behind the lack of policy was that Ed said that he wanted to do it right, take our time and get the right policies and not just throw anything up. I think this was the right move, and while frustrating at election time, it should pay dividends when they do come into being.
Ed has been very perceptive too when he has been looking inwards too, getting party members to tell the leadership what they thing and how they would see the party evolve with the “Refounding Labour” consultation led by Peter Hain MP. Given that there have been many ways to submit, and I have pretty made use of all of them, however the best for me was chairing the Gloucester CLP debate on it. All the members involved had really good discussions and because we had such a wider range of viewpoints, from a new member that week to Parmjit Dhanda who could give a parliamentary perspective and then members who had been in Gloucester CLP for many years and could put a lot of context into the history of Gloucester CLP and the Labour party in recent years.
Ed Miliband, yesterday, has said that he wants to choose his own shadow cabinet rather than the PLP elected one he gets at the moment. Many people are saying that he is wrong, and even that the entire party should elect the shadow cabinet. Personally I agree with Ed. He should be allowed to pick his own team. The Cabinet should be greater than the sum of its parts, and that will only come about by being a team that Ed can work with and drive on. From personal experience, I know that if I can choose my own project teams, then we tend to work better, or at least quicker (for the leadership buffs, selecting your own team allows you to go through the Forming and Storming stages much quicker and allows speedier transition to Norming and Performing).
He has also suggested that the public should be allowed greater access to Conference. I’m not sure about that because it’s not exactly a closed shop (its on TV and in the papers and the like), however it is supposed to be one time that the party membership can get together.
The biggest thing Ed needs to do now is work with all sides of the Party and yoke the strengths of both “wings”. We have a number of think tanks and policy ideas coming from papers like the “Blue Labour“, and organisations like GEER. Both of these have ideas that I like, for example GEER is hard over on remembering the true roots of Labour which is bang on, where as Blue Labour urge us not to forget the productive and inspirational parts of New Labour, which is also right. They both have things that I really disagree with too, but this is what I hope Ed will be able to do, show the leadership to use the best parts of all these organisations, while not stamping on the other bits, so we can still allow intellectual debate. For me, this is how we will become even more solid. I like the fact that I don;t agree with all members or policies all of the time, if that was the case then we would be just a big back slapping community, I like having my thoughts challenged and stretched.
I hope that this signals a new drive from Ed Miliband now, he has spent a significant period of time listening, now is the time to start doing, to give members something to work with, for us to prove to the public that we are a party that can be trusted with their vote and our country!