I’m not gonna lie to you, I am incredibly happy about Ed Miliband’s recent election as the new Leader of the Labour Party. If you follow me on Twitter (@TVPaulD), you’ve probably seen me Tweeting in support over the past months as the Leadership Election has unfolded. And Ed’s speech on the result being announced touched strongly on the reason I feel I connected so readily with his campaign.
In David Miliband, and Ed Balls, I saw two (Very, very good) politicians. But they were just that, politicians. And what’s more, politicians of an era which I feel has had its time. When the Conservative Party was ejected in 1997, they spent the next 8 years or so pushing essentially the same old Tory orthodoxy.
Then they elected David Cameron, and much as I dislike his politics and generally disagree with him, you can’t argue that he was not a transformative figure for the Conservatives. He remade them into a modern Conservative Party that was much more in tune with what (certain sectors of) the population were feeling. Labour had done the same thing with Tony Blair – much later than they should have.
The risk with putting David Miliband or Ed Balls in as leader was that they would be seen as continuing the old New Labour era (Clumsy a phrase as that is) past its sell-by date. Tony Blair has been bleating that we should not move past New Labour. He’s very attached to it, it’s his legacy.
But Tony is as wrong now as he was when he began to mistake what New Labour stood for to most people around the time of the Iraq War. Ed Miliband characterises it as becoming the establishment, and that’s true. New Labour ceased, partway into Tony’s second term, to be radical or reformative.
This stagnation continued under Gordon Brown, but let’s be clear: the rot started on Tony’s watch. And we lost more voters on his watch than we did on Gordon’s. Gordon is a great man, and he was a great, but (like Tony) flawed Prime Minister.
Ed Miliband is younger than the other Leadership contenders. He’s younger than the Coalition Leaders. It may only be about half a decade, but it’s enough. Enough to signal a sea change. Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and to a less overt extent David Miliband (Their heir apparent) wanted to continue the New Labour project because they feared going back to the old Labour orthodoxies.
In taking this stance, they forgot the fundamental reason the Labour Party turned to the New Labour project: staying the same is not Labour, will not get you elected and is, in fact, the very definition of conservatism.
Ed Miliband has built a credible case for a new generation. I hate to evoke the Obama cliché, but it applies somewhat here. Under Ed’s new generation of the Labour Party, Labour can be a transformative entity again, we can regain radicalism, we can return to progressivism. Making real changes, bit-by-bit, for the betterment of all Britons, as a collective.
It’s a younger, more vibrant Labour Party, a Labour Party which has turned a page, and shorn itself of the stagnation which got us ejected from power.
It’s what the people wanted, Labour back as the champions of The March of Progress.
And at the head of this New Generation of the Labour movement, we have Ed Miliband. An MP, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, yes. But, crucially, a man who is clearly a human being. The mantra of “Ed talks Human” rings true. Just as Obama captured my personal imagination because he is a stunning orator, Ed captures people’s imaginations and affections (including my own) because he comes across as someone who not only fundamentally gets it, but gets us.
The Conservatives are underestimating the importance of Ed’s human quality, and of the transformation of Labour, over night, into a generationally different movement. They are, wrongly, elated.
My advice to you Mr. Cameron, is this:
Run and hide. Run. And hide.