Maurice Glasman has given some advice to Ed Miliband: Nothing wrong with that. He has put this advice in the New Statesman and that’s fine too. He has also added that he is backing Ed Miliband: Great. All of this will be missed. What is on the news and what will be in the papers are the following nuggets:
“There seems to be no strategy, no narrative and little energy… He has not broken through… He has flickered rather than shone, nudged not led…. Ed has honoured his responsibilities but has not exerted his power.”
It is true that Ed is not the most showy of leaders, and sometimes it is better to provide constant lumination than shine brightly like a star and then implode. As for a lack of strategy, I don’t agree that this is the case. Opposition is very different from government in that the opposition has the luxury, at least early on in the five year life of a government, to be able to engage with Labour supporters and the public. There will be a time when the policies needed for government will be formed. Now is a time when policies must be concerned with damage limitation, particularly in the NHS and Education, where the Tories seem intent in transforming the landscape to suit their own interests, with a complete disregard for the most vulnerable in society.
There are different ways to exert power. One is to be arrogant enough to think, “I know I am right” and force the agenda. Another way of exerting power is to listen to people from all sides of the Party including those on the right like Glasman and then decide what is best for the Party and the for the future of Britain. There are different ways of getting things done, you can shout “I have decided we are doing this” and tell the press before you tell Parliament (the speaker quite rightly has picked up on this recently) or you can make a decision based on what you have heard and tell competent trusted colleagues who will implement what has been decided. Power can be exerted in more than one way.
Glasman has been unduly harsh to write in public that there is “no strategy, no narrative and little energy”. If he wants to give some ideas to the leader and the shadow cabinet then I’m sure that he has access to them. Debate is good, it is how we form policy and make progress. Differences of opinion are good, they allow many views to be heard and taken in to account. But there is a fine line between discussion and open criticism that harms the Party. If a Labour activist wants to be in the newspaper then there is an easy way to do it: Just say that Ed is dreadful and someone will print what you have to say. Supportive articles are written on blogs but are not really news.
I think that Ed should be given time; he may well grow into his position. The Labour Leader should be given more time than the average football manager. It seems that some Party members think the two positions are similar. In the premiership after a few bad games the pressure mounts. In the Labour Party a few bad headlines and there is a leadership crisis. After the Labour-led phone hacking enquiry good headlines are as hard to to come by as wins in football matches in the most competitive league in the world.
The Tories are the real enemy and now is the time to give a united voice in support of Ed Miliband and direct our energy to trying to make sure this coalition is a one term government.