Ed impressed me at his conference. Looks like he’s two-faced in the tradition of Labour party leaders: They tell you what you want to hear. Original with comments is at: http://www.leftfutures.org/2013/10/ed-miliband-shifts-leftwards-at-conference-but-rightwards-in-the-plp/.
What sort of party does Miliband really want? The signs are confused because his radical stance at conference in taking on corporate power has now just two weeks later been followed by a distinct turn to the right in the reshuffle. How a programme of transforming capitalism is to be carried through by a Labour front bench which is largely made up of people wholly opposed to any such project is hard to see.
The Opposition shadow cabinet plus attendees is now composed of 12 Blairites, 4 Brownites (who together make up a majority), plus 9 centrists, and 6 on the left or left-inclining. Ed Miliband has constantly asserted that he wants a united party which balances the various factions and interests. In no sense can this reshuffle be said to achieve this. Leaving aside the centrists whose politics cannot readily be identified, the right outnumbers the left by almost 3 to 1. That is contrary to Ed’s instincts proclaimed at conference, contrary to the balance within the Labour Party as a whole, and contrary to the spirit of a shared unity which Ed professes to believe in.
One wonders who actually made the selections. What role was played by Ed’s office which is almost unanimously Blairite or right-wing? Who decided to drop Diane Abbott, a candidate for the leadership in 2010 and one of the small minority on the left who remained in the shadow cabinet?
Who decided to remove Lisa Nandy, one of the very few on the left in the 2010 intake and perhaps the most prominent, from her shadow responsibility for child care policies at which she was performing so well? Who decided to drop or move such prominent campaigners as Chris Williamson and Jack Dromey, and why?
Of course it is true that Miliband demoted three prominent Blairites, but they were replaced by persons of similar ilk. It is also true that the reshuffle in the junior ranks overwhelmingly favoured the Blairite faction whilst not one of the 2010 left intake was singled out for the front bench. This whole picture leaves a puzzling impression, that Ed Miliband’s political instincts are quite radical, yet in the PLP he errs towards placating the dominant faction, even though that makes it difficult if not impossible to achieve his political ambitions. It is hard to understand how he thinks he can achieve his vision when he suppresses or marginalises the very people who can create the political space for him and who would support him when times get tough, as in politics sooner or later they always do.
Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill, Rachel Reeves, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, has insisted in her first interview since winning promotion in Ed Miliband’s frontbench reshuffle.
The 34-year-old Reeves, who is seen by many as a possible future party leader, said that under Labour the long-term unemployed would not be able to “linger on benefits” for long periods but would have to take up a guaranteed job offer or lose their state support.
Adopting a firm party line on welfare, the former Bank of England economist stressed that a key part of her task would be to explode the “myth” that Labour is soft on benefit costs, and to prove instead that it will be both tough and fair.