As the first few hints of Ed Miliband’s opposition agenda leak out through his acceptance speech, we can chance a guess as to what his Labour Party will really be like. A candidate who knew his crown could only be granted by the unions and the old left had to pander to a certain set of interests – which he certainly captivated. He can be in little doubt, however, that the same campaign isn’t one capable of winning a general election.
Michael Meacher, one of that minority of Labour MPs backing the younger brother, gave his synopsis of the Mili-E view of Labour’s future. He sees a departure from New Labour’s “vacuous piffle about opportunity, social mobility, and improved personal support” in favour of a focus on income equality. If Ed is to win in 2010 (or sooner) he has to abandon such a line.
Britain has never elected a government whose primary focus was levelling the nation’s income. On the contrary, it tends to fall into the lap of those who promise equality of opportunity. From the collapse of Labour in the 1970s Britain was dominated by the politics of opportunity. Whilst other issues came and went, the dividing line ultimately came down to how opportunity was distributed around the nation.
For Britain to be a competitive country in an ever more brutal world, for it to battle through and survive the precarious economic environment, for it to regain some of its lost vibrancy, opportunity needs to be centre stage. Were an agenda of forced equality, of punitive taxation and divisive regulation, to come to the polls, it would surely lose. For Ed Miliband to make a real impression in the next election he must assert himself not only against the Tories, but against the very people who put him into power.
(Indeed if you were to read into David M’s grin as he walked onto the Conference floor, you might think he agrees with the above. Perhaps somebody’s counting on his brother to not last long.)