There Is No Alternative To Leadership On AV
The first big challenge facing Ed Miliband’s leadership will not being Oldham and Saddleworth by-election which, thanks to The Speaker, has incredibly been delayed.
The pressing internal political challenge facing the new leader is clarifying and confirming Labour’s position on the Alternative Vote.
Last Friday Andy Burnham, Labour’s election co-ordinator chose to announce that the Labour Party won’t now be campaigning in favour of the Alternative Vote during the referendum. This is in complete contrast to statements made by Ed Miliband prior to and during the leadership contest.
Sunder Katwala expertly highlights today why it is in Labour’s interests to play an active role in the Yes campaign and the significant costs of no-show. In the article Sunder argues it would undermine Ed Miliband’s leadership to avoid the leading the party within the campaign – having previously pledged to support it. It would ill-equip Labour for the potential of a future coaltion, which I believe is a reasonably plausible outcome of the next general election too. Finally Sunder argues it will be a lost opportunity for Labour to duck out from a campaign that could move the party and activists to a more ‘pluralist’ shape and tone for the 21st century.
The reason why this is such an important for Ed Miliband to deal with now is is that it crystallises a nagging concern that Ed Miliband has so far failed to stamp his mark on the Labour Party. Too many Shadow Ministers are still looking for ‘the line’ from the leadership on policy, having been accustomed to the centralised ways of Blair and Brown in years gone by. Ed may want to introduce a more consensual and devolved way of running the party but on some issues clear leadership is required. This is one of them.
It is my understanding that Andy Burnham’s comments were not coming from discussions with the leadership, but that he simply chose to opportunistically fill a vacuum on Labour’s position on the Alternative Vote with his more tribal and traditionalist views.
Ed should let it be known in no uncertain terms that under his leadership Labour will play a prominent role in the campaign for a Yes vote. It is in Labour’s short-term and long-term interests to do so and it would help create the politics Ed Miliband spoke so persuasively about in his leadership campaign.
The party is ready to be led on this issue. What Ed decides now could change the only prospect we have of changing the voting system in the next 20 years. If Ed Miliband is to break away from paternity leave for one internal Labour matter, it really should be on this.