The leader renews his vows with the party & role as underdog
The grassroots response to Ed Milibandâ€™s recent leadership uncertainties showed more enthusiasm for his leadership than at any other time â€“ including at the point of his election. While certain MPs were wobbling, the partyâ€™s foot soldiers and supporters were bashing out 60,000 tweets of support.
Yes, Labour folk are suckers for an underdog, but this felt different. There were reasons why they backed him. The stance on Murdoch, pledging to repeal the Health and Social Care Tax, getting rid of the bedroom tax, standing up to rip-off energy companies and so on. It was not a bad shopping list and it needs to be woven into something meaningful and memorable. More on that later*.
What those dissenting MPs hadnâ€™t bargained on was the membership rising so clearly to Ed Milibandâ€™s defence. Previously the discussion has been about how the public would view a party that considered ditched its leader. Would possible gains be worth the blood spilt? What those plotters hadnâ€™t factored in was the growing role of the Labourâ€™s members.
Six months out from an election and you simply canâ€™t afford to marginalise the people youâ€™re banking on pounding the streets to win the seats. The members werenâ€™t just defending their leader they were opposing the idea that unnamed MPs could fire their leader without their approval or consent.
Just prior to his election as leader I pointed out on these threads how worried I was that Ed would be elected through the college but not win the most votes among members. Thatâ€™s hung over for him for a while but not any longer. His grassroots back him more than ever, the unions remain supportive and any prospect of a leadership change ended the moment Alan Johnson ruled himself out in any circumstances. How would Ed respond from all this? Business as usual? Well it seems things have changed.
Lucy Powell has now taken charge of the election campaign and is providing the authority it badly needed. She knows Edâ€™s mind better than anyone and unlike Douglas Alexander is trusted wholeheartedly. Sheâ€™s already clearing the log-jams and creating a sense of order, pace and purpose that wasnâ€™t previously there. She had mixed reviews when previously Edâ€™s Head of Office but now sheâ€™s an MP and Shadow Minister sheâ€™s a transformed politician with some authority. This could easily prove to be one of the most politically important of Edâ€™s appointments.
Jon Trickettâ€™s involvement will give a dash of the Red Ed. Already weâ€™ve seen the leader back firefighters and defending their retirement age . This hasnâ€™t just cheered the workers involved (who arenâ€™t affiliated to Labour any more) but has given a morale boost and nod to the other public sector workers who have faced a tough time from cuts. This is Ed siding with the underdogs and itâ€™s where heâ€™s most effective.
Some athletes simply arenâ€™t suited to be front-runners. Same goes for horses and for politicians. Edâ€™s one of them. Labourâ€™s poll lead under Ed often became a source of complacency, conservativism or inertia. Now thereâ€™s a real fight on I expect Labour to strike some radical and populist positions that wouldnâ€™t have previously got an airing.
Ed Milibandâ€™s speech today was important. It wasnâ€™t just about making sense of a shopping list* but about getting a taste for the fight. Renewed from the last few weeks he is showing a focus and a hunger that at party conference seemed strangely lacking. Thankfully his Shadow Cabinet will be soon presented as an alternative government in waiting rather than hidden away as potential rivals to the spotlight. Can Ed kick on and win? He can if it’s sustained.
If the Tories underestimate Ed Miliband then they could make a costly mistake. David Cameron reminds me of stronger and slicker horse â€˜War Admiralâ€™ but in the last week Ed Miliband has shown he can become the smart and plucky â€˜Seabiscuitâ€™. As most of us who enjoy our racing know, underdogs can and do win and the Labour are united and up for the contest: see