Thursday, 30 September 2010

Our generation's Dennis Healey moment?

B Husband predicted back in May that Ed would win.  The growing strength of the Unions as seen in the London local elections in May, with Labour re-gaining control of Southwark and several other inner London boroughs as well as strengthening their grip in places where they had a dismal record in public office such as Doncaster, were all portents of what was to come.  Then Ken Livingstone, (surely Banquo's ghost made flesh) wins the nomination for London and now Ed M wins - well, it's a clean sweep.      

As ever it's in the detail that the real story lies; for instance I had not understood that a Trades Union endorsement such as Ed M received from the Big Three (Unite, Unison & GMB) meant that only he and his team got the membership lists in order to canvas their support.  The other candidates were effectively denied access to a significant part of their constituency but this is perfectly legitimate and is where the real power of the Union bosses lies.  

Of course the Unions and indeed senior Labour figures now say, that individual trade union members vote however they like but if you only receive literature or contact from one candidate...well you can see what that would mean.  Same thing happened with the London nomination, where the Unions backed Ken over Oona King.

But back to The Brothers Miliband - one rather poignant detail which has been widely covered by the media was how upset David's wife was said to be about what has happened.  She, or sources close to her have also let it be known that on those occasions over the past 2 years or so, when he could have mounted a coup against Gordon Brown but didn't, it was Ed pleading with him on Brown's behalf and urging him to maintain party unity that stopped David from taking those opportunities.  Small wonder there is a profound sense of bitterness and betrayal in the David camp.

Given that he was the heir apparent and could have chosen to court the Union bosses, in my view it is to his enormous credit as a man (although perhaps not as a cynical politician) that David chose not to but instead appealed to the wider Labour constituency (and probably the country).

So what are we to make of Ed then?  I suspect that he feels no small sense of achievement in finally bettering his older brother, and emerging certainly with no one in any doubt about his ruthlessness or cynicism as a politician.  Given all of that, personally I thought it patronising in the extreme for him to say in his acceptance speech that he had never in his wildest imaginations, thought he would one day be leader of the Labour Party.    

Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure that he realises what he has done; what sort of Faustian pact the Unions believe has been made - even if he doesn't.  He is said to be keen to moderate his message and people who know him tell me that he is a social democrat but that's clearly not what the Unions think they have got.  How long before they test him ?

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