Andrew Grice: Miliband needs to find a voice fast if he wants to be heard

Inside Westminster

Share
Related Topics

When Ed Miliband pronounced New Labour "dead" on winning the party leadership last September, he was trying to signal a new style of politics rather talking about the substance of policy.

He was also sending a message that, under his management, Labour would finally move on from the debilitating Blair-Brown rivalry which scarred Tony Blair's 13 years as leader.

As he struggles to establish himself in the public's eyes, Mr Miliband needed yesterday's revelations about an alleged plot by Brownites to oust Mr Blair after the 2005 general election like a hole in the head.

So far, the leaked private papers belonging to the shadow chancellor Ed Balls contain no "smoking gun" about the involvement of Mr Miliband or Mr Balls in the efforts to prise Labour's most electorally successful leader out of Downing Street. And the "plot" was hardly secret since Mr Blair had declared before the 2005 election that it would be his last as Labour leader.

The manoeuvring by the Brown camp was designed to get him out as soon as possible. Mr Blair, who felt at his boldest and most decisive in his curtailed third term as his time ran out, wanted to hang on until 2008 to complete as many domestic reforms as possible.

In fact, Mr Brown had been nagging him to stand down since soon after the 2001 election ("When are you going to fuck off?", he would ask), believing this was part of their 1994 pact under which Mr Blair became the modernisers' leadership candidate.

By 2005, the then-Chancellor was getting desperate and feared that, the longer Mr Blair clung on, the less chance Mr Brown would have of making his mark as prime minister and winning the following election.

Mr Miliband's allies may describe the papers as "ancient history" but they are not that ancient. Many voters are not listening to Labour. The leaked documents may only reinforce the impression of a party more interested in its internal machinations and personal rivalries than the country's future. That may be their real significance. "It's one step forward, one step back for us at the moment," one shadow cabinet member groaned yesterday.

Even before yesterday's leak, Mr Miliband was finding it hard to be heard. Labour looks more like a third party – a feeling the Liberal Democrats know well – rather than an alternative government. Some former ministers are finding the slog of opposition hard. You have to shout loud to be heard. On Tuesday, Mr Miliband had hoped to make waves by calling a press conference at which he offered all-party talks on the important issue of social care. His inner circle spent many hours planning the initiative. Yet his big announcement became a footnote to David Cameron's speech about the Government's NHS reforms.

On the face of it, the inclusion of the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition should make it easier for Labour to be the alternative voice to the Government. True, it has scooped up 70,000 new members since last year's election and added about 10 points in the opinion polls as left-of-centre voters who feel betrayed desert the Liberal Democrats.

But sensible Labour folk are worried about what they describe as the party's "mediocre" performance in the south of England in last month's council elections. And they grumble that Labour's unexpected disaster in the Scottish Parliament elections shows the dangers of relying on an opinion poll lead holding firm and assuming Lib Dem defectors will all come over to Labour.

"We need to appeal to Tory supporters" is a cry you hear a lot from Blairites who moan privately about Mr Miliband. They are not plotting against him and do not want to undermine him, not least because a return to the internecine war of the Blair-Brown era can only make it even harder for Labour to win in 2015.

But Mr Miliband is determined to do things his way and his own time. That does not mean waiting until the 2015 election. He has a plan and is not going to be pushed off it. He is not relying on former Lib Dem supporters to carry him to power. He is confident we will know much more about his project by the time he marks a year as leader at this autumn's Labour conference.

The Labour leader is not interested in spin, photocalls and gimmicks. He intends to convince voters that his party is changing fundamentally. He is not ruffled by unflattering comparisons with the early months of the Blair and Cameron leaderships.

Mr Blair dumped Labour's Clause IV commitment to public ownership. Mr Cameron hugged a husky in the Arctic. "Cameron may have followed the Blair playbook, but he didn't win the election," one Miliband ally insisted. "The world has moved on. People want substance, not images."

Yet Mr Miliband's internal critics worry that voters form a judgement about party leaders quickly, and that first impressions are hard to shift. If people can't soon imagine him passing the "No 10 doorstep test", they may never do so. "Ed knows what he needs to do," one senior Labour figure said. "It's time he got on with it."



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion  

Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion with a bow to show off – and now he's discovering what it's like to be hunted

Louis Theroux
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, arrives with his son Prince George at the Lindo Wing to visit his wife and newborn daughter at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, west London, Britain, 02 May 2015  

Prince George's £18,000 birthday gift speaks volumes about Britain's widening wealth inequality

Olivia Acland
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'