Ed Miliband is Labour Party leader

Submitted by AWL on 26 September, 2010 - 1:12 Author: Martin Thomas

One sharp-suited young man leaving the Labour Party conference session on 25 September shook his head in disgust at a comrade offering him a leaflet from the Labour Party Democracy Task Force, a group set up to win real life and decision-making power for the Party conference.

"After this, I'm getting out of here as soon as I can", he muttered, referring to Ed Miliband's victory in the Labour leadership election.

Shortly afterwards, in the Grass Roots Umbrella Network meeting, left Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins gave the same assessment from the opposite angle: "This is the end of a dark night. This is the end of New Labour".

Trouble is, the New Labour machine is still intact. The great bulk of the pastel-shaded neo-liberal careerist political advisers and assistants, think-tank operatives, media manipulators, and NGO types who have taken over the top levels of the Labour Party since the mid-90s are still there. Few have joined the disgusted leaflet-refuser, John Hutton, and Alan Milburn in quitting.

Many trade unionists coming out of the conference felt boosted and encouraged. "At least the unions managed to get their candidate in"; "It's the best result we could have hoped for".

The general "feel" of the crowd coming out of conference - as measured, for example, by its willingness to take left-wing leaflets and buy left-wing papers - was more open, confident, and leftish than in recent years, though still, of course, an order of magnitude less so than before the great neo-liberal counter-offensive in the Labour Party between the mid-80s and mid-90s.

Even the delegates most pleased by Ed Miliband's victory seemed aware that what Ed Miliband's prominent backers among MPs are saying is true: politically, Ed Miliband is within the New Labour mainstream, different only in shadings from David Miliband. He gave virtually no hard commitments during his leadership campaign.

The significance of his victory is that, instead of having a new leader with an open, hard commitment to Blairite continuity, Labour now has one open to pressure from the unions and the Party rank and file as well as from the apparatchiks and the media people. We should demand Miliband's, and the Labour Party's, support for industrial and anti-cuts struggles - but that will not happen through pleading to his 'left-wing' conscience. It will only happen through pressure and organisation from below - and that will mean fighting Miliband and his people every inch of the way.

There are immediate dangers. The hard-Blairite MPs and ex-ministers and Labour officials who sat stony-faced in the conference, pointedly not joining even in routine applause for Ed Miliband's speech, will now put immense pressure on him to "give guarantees" that he will not "move the party to the left" and offer proofs that he is "not in the pocket of the unions".

They will find many weaknesses to play on. For example, questioned on party funding by the Financial Times (24 September) and by the Left Foot Forward blog (9 September), Ed Miliband talked about wanting to "make progress on party funding together with other parties".

That is code for the Hayden Phillips proposals: a legal ban on collective union money for the Labour Party, on any large scale, "compensated for" by state funding.

David Miliband, surprisingly, gave the Financial Times a clear rejection of Hayden Phillips and a clear commitment to keep Labour's union link.

Don't celebrate - or, rather, celebrate without any naivety. Organise!

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Sun, 26/09/2010 - 13:33

There is an analysis of Diane Abbot's vote here. I personally don't think there can be any doubt that John McDonnell would have done better; and in any case, more would have come, or could have come, from his campaign. Abbott's was non-existent and politically dire.

Still, I think it was right that the AWL called for a vote for Abbott, as the only candidate really at all critical of and not directly implicated in the Blair and Brown governments, and a transfer to Ed Miliband to block David Miliband.

Sacha Ismail

Submitted by AWL on Sun, 26/09/2010 - 13:59

Having uncritically supported Abbott, and not called for a transfer to Miliband, Socialist Worker has produced a sober-ish assessment of the result. They call for a union fight back within Labour - but of course remain tied to their shibboleth that socialists should not become Labour Party members.

Meanwhile in local anti-cuts committees SWPers are opposing sharp criticism of and demands being placed on Labour Party officials and representatives, placing themselves on the right of the anti-cuts movement. In South London an SWP organiser justified a particular manoeuvre by citing the need to defend the Labour Party against the AWL's "sectarian" attacks!

Sacha

Submitted by AWL on Sun, 26/09/2010 - 18:50

The voting figures on the Labour Party website suggest that the party now has about 178,000 members. If Labour has really recruited 40,000 since the election, that is a strikingly low figure.

Submitted by AWL on Mon, 27/09/2010 - 10:55

Other Labour Party election results (National Executive Committee, National Policy Forum) were not great for the left, even the soft left: see here. For the NEC, in particular, hard-right councillor Luke Akehurst (who supported Ed Miliband) narrowly beat Pete Willsman of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy: less than 31,000 votes to more than 29,000.

Submitted by martin on Mon, 27/09/2010 - 13:37

The NEC results were poor. The "centre-left" (and you have to use that term, not "left") now has three of the CLP seats on the NEC where before it had four.

The blame probably lies with the fact that this year, unlike previous years, the "centre-left" was unable to negotiate an agreed slate. Results will have been hurt by the huge acrimony, and dispersed voting recommendations, which resulted.

For the constituency places on the National Policy Forum, the "centre-left" won 19.5 seats out of 55. (19.5? That is Pete Willsman's count, based on notching three of those elected as "0.5" centre-left).

It's by no means brilliant, but it is better than the uniform zero out of 55 which was the count for "centre-left" people among constituency NPF delegates every year under the old system, and it greatly increases the chances of being able to force "minority reports" from the NPF onto conference floor.

Submitted by martin on Mon, 27/09/2010 - 13:38

Despite rumours to the contrary, Labour's National Executive is putting a rule-change to conference to reverse the 2007 Bournemouth decision to ban motions to conference. "Motions" will now be taken at conference, not just "issues" (discussed without a vote).

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