Ed Milliband it is. Labour has elected their new leader, making absolutely sure the result produced such an overwhelming victory for one candidate that the party will not be damaged by years of infighting and thoughts of betrayal. A 1.3% margin is more than enough, isn’t it? A tiny margin of victory over his own brother? Yeah, that’s terrific.
Although when you consider that in the previous Parliament, warring Labour Brownites and Blairites could barely negotiate the opening of a can of soup without resorting to recriminations and calling for the lead can-opener to resign, a 1.3% majority can be considered a roaring triumph.
Worse is the fact that a majority – albeit a small one – of the parliamentary party and of members voted for David Milliband, meaning the only reason Ed has taken office is because of the unions. After losing by such a miniscule amount, the hurt and thwarted Milliband Snr told the party to “Unite behind Ed”. But with Unite one of the biggest unions, this apparently unifying statement could be seen as an attempt to write a headline for the right-wing press. If in his next public address, David tells Labour “Trade Unions Congress behind Ed”, Labour is fucked.
Some people are worried that Labour may tack to the left under Red Ed, welcoming back Militant-types, declaring war on the rich and eating cucumber sandwiches on CND marches. Unfortunately for all who wish to paint Labour as a proper socialist vehicle, the party is far too sensible to allow this to happen.
One of the difficult tasks Ed Milliband faces is that of defining his leadership. The shadow of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, two heavyweights of the past fifteen years, will linger for far longer. He will be constantly assessed as to whether he is a Brownite or a Blairite. BBC News this morning used the headline “Ed Milliband to shun Brown-Blair era”, in preparation for his first big speech as Labour leader at the party conference.
This suggests that without shunning his predecessor’s respective eras, he may walk to the podium and declare: “I look to start my time as Labour leader well, winning plaudits for wooing middle England and delivering a landslide at the first election I lead Labour into. Then I shall embark upon a highly suspicious war, kowtow to the media mogul of the day, continue privatising everything I can and to top it all, I shall lead us into the biggest recession since the Wall Street Crash and make sure we can’t get out of it again because the only people who make money are property speculators and financial gurus”.
That David Milliband did not have majority backing of members, MPs and MEPs, is a mess mostly of Labour’s making. Each section of the party (unions and affiliated organisations; members; elected MPs and MEPs) gets 1/3 of the vote, meaning that an MP has one ballot equal to 600 members. Meanwhile the famously progressive, forward-thinking Conservative party has an OMOV (one member, one vote) system, whereby everyone involved with the party gets a single vote. Then again, when you consider this system produced Iain Duncan Smith, Labour’s way of doing things seems completely rational.
The Liberal Democrats also have an OMOV system, but no-one knew this because their leadership campaigns have always been like the tombola at the church fate: you take a slight interest and might check the numbers eventually, but the end result makes little difference to your day.
It was also reported that nearly 10% of ballots were spoilt, although no-one had the heart to point out that this was because Ed Balls was one of the candidates. The high number of spoilt ballots makes Ed Milliband’s election becomes more problematic by the second. He won by just over a single percentage point and yet seven times more votes were spoilt than the margin of votes which gifted him the leadership.
Should the upcoming spending review lead to unions demanding strike action, Ed will be judged on how much he supports or rebuts the unions which gave him power in the first place. On the left of the Labour party, they will want him to re-establish the link between the party and the unions, while the right will want the continuation of Tony Blair’s commitment to “free” Labour from the clutches of trade union money.
Despite these pressures, Milliband’s task sheet must be headed with addressing the wholesome bollocks of David Cameron’s “big society” guff, which has become the woolliest concept in Britain outside Shaun the Sheep’s production studio.
He can’t please everybody, but good luck Ed. You’re going to need it.