The political scene is almost unrecognisable compared with 2 years ago, even with 6 months ago. For much of this we must thank our good friends the Tories and particularly David Cameron who seem determined to do all they can to ensure a Labour victory next time. Unquestionably however a major part of this is due to Ed Miliband’s leadership. Not just his obvious mastery of the turbulent PMQs arena, much more importantly his manifest honesty and decency (by contrast with you-know-who), his dogged patience, his reaching out to all sections of the Labour Movement (on the one hand his speaking at the Durham Miners’ Gala, the first for a Labour leader for 23 years, and on the other the rapprochement with Blair), and most important of all his symbolism as a voice for change and hope in a landscape that has now descended for years into a political wilderness.
His indefatigable quest for unity is heroic, but like everything else in politics it comes at a price. Maintaining good links with all parts of the party is good, but becoming beholden to any one of them is not. The unions and the Left have given their support to the leadership unconditionally, but the Right rather less so. Lord David Sainsbury’s £3m donations were given to the Labour Party up to the point when Ed Miliband was elected leader, after which they were transferred to Progress, the organ of the Blair political machine. If Blair’s photocall with Ed is a genuine conversion, it would be helpful if the Sainsbury money could be diverted back to where it should belong, the Labour Party, not a party within it.
But in the last analysis what really matters is not money, but policy. Ed ran on a manifesto of change, moving away from New Labour, creating a new political space to recover the 5 million votes that that regime lost. He has got to assert his own instincts with a clarity and forcefulness that is unmistakeable, not constantly looking over his shoulder to try to placate one faction or another. Others may try to insinuate themselves into his affections, but without repudiating them he must make clear beyond doubt that his own direction of travel is not negotiable.
Those policies are already latent: jobs and growth rather than cutting less far less fast (which is after all merely a pale shadow of a manifestly failed Tory policy), breaking up the structure of the banks to prevent any repetition of the Great Financial Crash, a major revival of manufacturing to secure a sustainable prosperous economy, a big house-building programme, and a wealth tax and an assault on indefensible inequality. Putting those themes in highlights would resonate everywhere across the country.