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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ed and the gang

There are times when one has to feel sorry for Ed Miliband. There he is trying to make Labour electable again after their disastrous stewardship of the economy under Gordon Brown and all these ghosts from the past keep popping up to offer him advice.

The latest incarnation of this phenomenon comes from Peter Mandelson, the man with more political lives than a cat. According to this morning's Daily Telegraph the former Business Secretary has added a new chapter to the paperbook version of his autobiography, The Third Man in which he describes his misgivings at Mr Miliband’s decision to distance himself from New Labour:

He warns that Labour will not win again unless it takes the centre ground from David Cameron, and suggests that the party reach out to the Liberal Democrats by supporting voting reform at the forthcoming referendum in order to be well-placed to form a Coalition with them.

In words which are likely to infuriate Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, he also advises Mr Miliband against advocating the permanent retention of the 50p top rate of tax, or shying away from tackling the deficit.

The paper says that in the extracts, produced by the Labour List website, Mr. Mandelson criticised Lord Kinnock, the former leader, for saying after Mr Miliband’s victory that “Labour’s old faithful had finally ‘got their party back’”:

Lord Mandelson went on: “If by that he meant our 1980s party, God only knew how, or when, we could hope to become a party of government again.”

The peer also criticised Mr Miliband’s apparent lurch to the Left, and decision to distance himself from the New Labour era of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when he had not come up with a credible alternative vision.

“When Ed pronounced New Labour ‘dead’, he was not only being more categorical than was wise, but quite possibly more than he really intended,” he wrote.

“Even allowing for the tactical choices he had made in his bid to become leader, however, I was struck by the fact that he had given no strong clue during the campaign as to what alternative to New Labour he envisaged.

“He was quick to say what he was against: essentially, Tory policies and Tony’s policies.

“But he rarely said what he was for… When he said New Labour was dead, even if that was just a useful flight of leadership-campaign rhetoric, he risked misunderstanding what our modernising project was about.

“It was about establishing Labour as a modern, economically competent, national party that would apply our values of care, fairness, social mobility and shared social responsibility in a way that resonated with the everyday concerns and aspirations of all of Britain.

“Ed’s task is to redefine what that means for a new century, and in doing so to find a worthy successor to Tony Blair’s version of New Labour while retaining its essence. He is certainly up to this.

“But if he fails, he will help Cameron undo all the work we did at the outset of New Labour – making us once again distrusted on the economy and taxation, pushing us back into the box marked ‘tribalism’, driving apart the progressive forces in politics and placing Labour once again on the wrong side of people’s aspirations.”

Ed Miliband must be in despair.
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