Ed Miliband versus the right wing press
Unsurprisingly, the discussion on whether the Left within the Labour Party will reawaken has begun, in spite of Ed Miliband’s “left lurch” denial.
Contrary to what we’ve read in the papers, Miliband’s political direction will not rely on the union leg-up he received, largely because there will be advisors at the ready telling him not to let the tabloids have their cake and eat it too.
A nudge in political direction may occur depend upon who Miliband chooses as shadow chancellor, though it will not be sold as a political direction as such – and rightly so. Rather, the opposition should provide their analysis of the economy as necessary and sensible.
For me, out of the two main options – Balls’ growth model and the Darling inspired softer deficit halving programme – the growth argument is the one that holds the most traction. Therefore, I should like to see Ed Balls as shadow chancellor for the Labour Party.
As for a conscious political direction of the party under Ed Miliband, that path should be quite clear; though it will be somewhat disturbed by the right wing press – as I shall now discuss.
Miliband, when combating the “Red Ed” mantra during interviews, has insisted he stands for the centre ground in politics, but furthermore, wants to redefine what that means.
Alex Barker, in the FT, has noted that: “Britain’s new opposition leader [is] calling time on Tony Blair’s New Labour project and promising to “redefine” the political centre ground around reducing income inequality and raising wages for the poor”.
However, what is quite clear to me is that the redefinition of the centre ground has been influenced by the coalition government already.
In my discussion on these pages about the epistemic closure of the Conservative Party, what I have insisted is that today’s Tory administration is certainly no product of it. This, I conclude, is why it was unable to secure a larger proportion of the vote against an unpopular Labour government, because it spent more time alluding to social ills in a way usually the preserve of the left of centre, instead of those tacky things that pass for Conservative themes today; “uncontrolled” immigration, loss of “Christian” values, the relationship between crime and flailing discipline in schools, and the so-called handing of power to foreigners (i.e. the EU).
(Of course the Tories under Cameron did try and touch on this low politics, for example in Glasgow East, but has largely been characterised as a party, economically conservative, while socially liberal – particularly by Peter Hitchens, who recently described him as a smiling, willing prisoner of the Sixties Leftists).
Subsequently, many things usually considered centre left (crime often being linked to poverty, prison as one of many options for reform, the NHS as a good thing, bankers needing extra checks, not extra cheques), are almost universally accepted, even in the Conservative Party cabinet. Therefore, what goes for centre ground today has been shifted.
There are many strings to Miliband’s bow that he may now reconsider, or saturate rhetoric on, so as to counter the Mcarthy-esque media loons, and petit names dreamt up by idiots such as “deficit-denying, union-controlled, u-turning, decision-ducker” (do see also Panorama on Lord Cashpoint tonight). Those strings include salary differentials in the private sector; opposing VAT rises; becoming tough on greedy banker bonuses and what Polly Toynbee last night called boardroom kleptocracy; reforming the way in which a university education is paid for, where soon leading institutions could introduce fees of about £7,000.
Socially, the consensus marks a progressive shift, which defines the political centre as further to left than at any other time where the Tories have been in government. Where the importance really lays is in the economy, where in reflection of George Osborne’s cutting agenda, the moderate centre might depict something akin to the Darling inspired deficit reduction lite. In order to explore anything more radical than both these options – which ought to be preferable – there is no greater of enemy of the opposition leader than the right wing press.
Ed Balls, in a Guardian comment, made note that the Labour Party were defeated in 1983, not only because of a split, but because the argument on the economy was weak. Frankly, the party has returned to this position, only now it is loose talk by the right which could shape how effective Ed Miliband will be as leader of the opposition.
For this reason, and for the sake of the economy, it is my plea to fellow leftists not to dedicate all their time and energy exploring how meek the leadership of Ed Miliband is, but to focus on countering the low argument made by the right.
Tony Blair chose to counter right wing press by appeasing them and becoming rhetorically further to the right than they were. But his politics have come to an end. It is high time Labour took up the proper fight against the right wing media once more.