26 Sep 2010

Will the real Ed Miliband please stand up?

Renowned broadcaster Peter McHugh writes on what Ed Miliband’s victory means for Labour and reveals how much more to him there is than just being David Miliband’s brother.

Ed Miliband with other Labour leadership candidates

In the end it wasn’t the unions wot won it but David wot lost it.

The not really very Red Ed didn’t do it for his brother he did that for himself. And thus the Labour Party has a new leader, let the plotting begin.

It was a suitably bizarre occasion, four o’clock on a not rainy afternoon in Manchester. Earlier City had beaten Chelsea in the lunchtime game played early one assumes to get it out of the way for the main event.

The underdog narrowly won the match, was it a portent?

It was four o’clock, the hall was packed, everyone wanted the result, but not quite yet. Instead of the new leader they still had to send off the old and suddenly he was there as if he had never been gone.

It was the Gordon Brown of old, the man of three years ago, the one who could be Prime Minister for ever…or at least two terms.

The crowd went berserk and Gordon must have wondered where they were when he needed them.

The crowd went berserk and Gordon must have wondered where they were when he needed them. There are two short words politicians never say, said Gordon, would they be “I’m sorry”, well no they were “thank you”.

He said he took the whole fault for the election failure on his shoulders alone and the Conference gladly agreed and as suddenly as he arrived he left.

Five minutes of final fame too for Harriet Harman praised for her stop gap leadership another about to be airbrushed out.

Meanwhile we learned the five contenders had been out the back learning which of them had won and suddenly they appeared too. Everyone knew it was a Miliband and David was smiling and glad handing. Brother Ed was sombre. The other Ed and Andy a bit tearful and Diane, smug as ever.

And finally the result, it was Ed by even less than a nose.

‘Ed won by less than a nose’

David got a majority of MPs but not enough, a majority of party members, but not enough and Ed got a majority of union members and that was enough just.

It was David’s turn to look tearful as all realised his career is basically over. He had the chance more than once to stand up and be counted by taking Gordon on but he bottled it. If he had lost he could have stood again, but his nerve went and like Gordon, who backed away from the General Election he would have won, his time has passed.

Ed showed the steel a winner needs by taking on his brother knowing that it was only he who had to be beaten. If Ed had not stood David Miliband would be leader of the Labour party today.

Mind you David was always going to be the target of the Stop The Blair (or any of his friends) Coalition and how his heart must have sunk when first Teflon Tony and then Mandy described him as the only man for the job. How Ed must have smiled when they said the opposite about him.

Five years ago he had just become an MP and now he’s the leader to the dubious pleasure of dozens of other Labour MP’s whose only hope of advancement now lies with someone they hardly know.

He’s 40, an unmarried father of two, an atheist and allegedly in thrall to the unions, a description which must have the editors of the Sun, Mail and Telegraph thinking they have died and gone to heaven.

Nobody really knows who the real Ed Miliband is. Until this contest his best description was David’s brother and now he is David’s boss.

Nobody really knows who the real Ed Miliband is. Until this contest his best description was David’s brother and now he is David’s boss.

Like all the other contenders he has never had what would be considered a proper job. Like the man he will oppose in the Commons David Cameron, he cut his teeth working for the party and like Cameron knows which internal buttons to press.

He played a major part in writing the last election manifesto and will happily point out in private they nearly won. His first Leaders speech will come tomorrow and now he has got the job he will start the long campaign to prove he is more “Ed the reasonable” than “Ed the red”.

He said in his acceptance speech that he gets it. He gets how Labour got it wrong over immigration, over taxation, over Iraq. But what he really gets is the need to replicate Tony’s success in getting the middle and working class to get it with him. That will be his main message, all he has to do is not to mention Tony.

Keeping the unions on side will not be hard because after all they have nowhere else to go. They got what they wanted in getting rid of his brother now they are stuck with the result. If tomorrow’s words are the first clue to the reign of Ed, the second will come when he appoints his shadow cabinet.

In the best Labour traditions the shadow cabinet is elected by MP’s unlike the real one which will be selected by Ed if he ever becomes Prime Minister. Even so patronage starts immediately and Ed has the right to chose who gets which job.

Ed B wants the top job shadow chancellor and but for his association with Gordon should get it.

But the problem for Ed M is that Ed B will certainly be a contender for any future leadership election, whilst brother David is a busted flush. Would giving the job to David avoid a re-run of the horror movie that was Tony and Gordon or merely postpone it. Are two Ed’s really better than one?

Are two Ed’s really better than one?

There will be no repeat of the recent past said Lord Kinnock, “too many bitter lessons learned”, he said with that very optimism which lost him two general elections. But as the new leader said a new generation has taken charge of Labour indeed of all the parties.

The days of serving your time to get the top job have gone. Just like the industries none of them ever worked in today’s political leaders were selected early, groomed by those they were to follow, parachuted into safe seats and promoted quickly to power. Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have much more in common than that which separates them.

The real crunch comes next month when the spending review or the lack of spending review as it should be known is published. By then Ed will have been in post for a month and the phony war will be well and truly over.

He has the easiest job opposing all that he needs to keep him popular with the certain knowledge that it will be years before he is held to account. Ironically his opponents Dave and Nick have even less experience than him as they also struggle to keep their parties on side and their jobs safe.

Ed’s skill will be if he is able to turn what he is against into what he is for and if he can find at least some ground in the centre not totally nicked by the coalition.

Whatever the winter brings won’t be happiness. The cuts, nowhere near as bad as deliberately forecast, will still come and the unions will rightly do what their members pay them for and protest.

That‘s what the coalition has to hope for, a big bite of Bob Crow and Dave Prentiss to remind the voters just who Ed has apparently climbed into bed with.

But it’s a long game now we have fixed term parliaments and 40 somethings with their hands on the levers of power.

The Prime Minister must still be pinching himself that he is in No. 10 despite a less than thrilling performance at the polls. The Deputy Prime Minister must still be pinching everybody he meets!

Ed declared during his campaign that he would not work with Nick thereby getting the Lib Dems off the hook and offering a hostage to fortune he could come to regret.

But there is plenty of time yet for many more mistakes. Meanwhile Ed is in and David is out. Jeffrey Archer couldn’t have written it, or maybe he did.