Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

The Ed-Ed dynamic now key to Labour success; and how George Osborne is sleeping less easily

Posted on 21 January 2011 | 9:01am

Ed Miliband made much during the Labour leadership election of saying we had to ‘learn the lessons’ of why we lost power. Correct. However, we must also learn the lessons of why we won power, and won three general elections, among them the understanding that most people live their lives on or close to the political centre ground.

Another reason for the three wins, and all we did in the three terms we had, was the formidable political and intellectual skills of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. One reason for the former was that whilst often the relationship was productive, often it was not.

Both Eds were very much part of the GB team, and in their different ways made enormous contributions to it. I was part of the TB team. Despite the repeated differences between our bosses, far too often played out in public, I was always able to have pretty good relations with Ed M and Ed B.

But having seen so close up how the personal relations at the top can become as bad as at times they did, one of the lessons to learn is to make sure nothing like it happens between the two of them now. I am confident it won’t, but you can already feel the Tories and the media itching for it.

Ed Miliband has done a good job of pushing aside the ‘Red Ed’ label the Tories and their media supporters tried to pin on him. Ed Balls now has to do something similar in pushing aside the attempts the media will constantly make to build him up at Ed M’s expense.

We have all grown up a lot in the couple of decades or so we spent rebuilding the Labour Party. Ed Miliband recently told me he had been reading the first volume of my diaries, the Opposition years, and could not believe how much time and energy we had to waste on trying to hold key relationships together. ‘You had it a lot worse than I have,’ he said. That is good news. Ed has impressed me with his ability to appear unfazed by noise around him. He can take his time to develop the strategy for the fight ahead. Ed Balls has really impressed me in the way he had made the transition from government to Opposition. Theresa May will probably have thrown a little party last night.

So just as TB-GB was always an important dynamic in Labour’s march from Oppostion to government, so now is the Ed-Ed dynamic. The circumstances of Ed Balls’ arrival in this key post are really sad – Alan Johnson is a lovely man and it is horrible when marriages fail and horrible for the people concerned when it is all played out in public. But one thing I was sure of as I travelled back from Burnley through George Osborne’s constituency last night: the Chancellor is a more worried man today than he was yesterday morning.

  • Robert Jackson

    If I kept a diary (which I don’t) yesterday 20th Jan 2011 would have had a double asterisk against it.

    I caught up with your radio chat to the delightful Mariella about books. Not many of us will have heard of Doris Kearns Goodwin but anyone who saw her appearances with the late Tim Russert on MSNBC’s Sunday “Meet the Press” will have seen a highly thoughtful, well informed, funny contributor on American politics. There will be a clip somewhere on Y**t*be of her burlesque “Happy birthday Mr Moderator”, Marilyn Monroe fashion, for Tim’s birthday.

    Now, Tim Russert was a true gentleman interviewer. Possibly the nearest we have at the moment on the UK screens might be Matt Frei. Tim’s reputation was built on his meticulous research of his interviewees and heaven help any budding upcoming politician who did not do his homework before appearing on his show. The gentleman interviewer was an utter professional and equally utterly ruthless with the ill prepared.

    You, AC, following your appearance on QT last night, would probably have found favour with Tim Russert. Pretty damn dood prep. Good fight. Well done.

    On the other hand, with the dreadful distraction of a member of the Met playing fast and loose at home, AJ’s decision to resign seemed inevitable. A great loss to the Labour front bench. A matter of very great regret for us all.

    These, and the news of Labour winning a by election in Manchester with over 70% of the vote and four with the LD’s suffering massive falls in support places the day as remarkable.

    Also happens it would have been my father’s 93rd birthday had he not died last May just after the election.

    Yes – a double asterisk day.

    ……being followed by a triple asterisk if Coulson is going!!

  • Paul Jeffery

    Agree that Ed-Ed is a good development from regrettable circumstances, and that they should take care to learn from their predecessors. That said, I feel sure that with more hindsight the TB-GB relationship, although costly to both partners, will be seen as highly durable, and GB, despite the banking crisis and the deficit incurred as a result, a highly creditable chancellor.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Labour´s new strategy must be based on conservative social democracy. The key concepts in this new thinking are the good society and moral economy. Instead of self-interest and profit, the new economic model of Labour must be based on fairness.
    Labour must link its values of equality and social justice with its traditions of mutualism, localism and solidarity. Dr Maurice Glasman is already working on Labour´s next Big Idea. But it will take some time.
    Ed Miliband must fashion a new gentre ground which is not based on hedonistic consumerism. State must tame markets. The old centre ground is based around neoliberal consensus. But markets are not self-regulating as the recent crisis of western financial markets has shown. Active industrial policy is also needed.
    Labour must realize where the real middle ground is. The average household income in Britain is £22,000.
    Britain is now facing chaos. Steve Hilton wants everything to change and change fast.
    Britons are looking for leadership around an alternative. Labour must provide this alternative and incorporate the emerging protest movement.
    Labour would only cut £52bn.
    Ed Balls will add to Labour´s attack machine, and hopefully it will now get its old bite back. With Tom Baldwin now coordinating Team Ed´s PR Labour´s fightback has started.
    Ed Balls will tear apart Mr Osborne´s claims of nation´s credit card. He will show that global financial crisis caused the “mess”.
    We must also remember that public sector has the ethos of service, private sector is interested in profit. And that the welfare state can protect people, whereas Big Society cannot.
    The future belongs to Labour!

  • J19m84

    On question time you stated something to the effect that politicians are there to make things better for the next generation. So why did you and your mates feet it perfectly alright to saddle several future generations ( as well as the current one) with debt? For christs sake shut up and go away – you’re only the dog crap that your mates brought in on their shoes and it still lingers.

  • Rayalder

    Why are you reading this?

  • Richard

    Moribund favoured the postie rather than Balls as shadow chancellor. Balls, in Brown mode, will not forgive him for that, rest assured.
    Their only common thread is that they were both at the treasury/in cabinet when Brown was sluicing cash in all directions. Expect major public post mortems as we are told where the bodies are burried.

  • Rubafunya

    David Cameroon on Andy Coulson…”he has run he downing street press office in a professional, comeptent and good way. And if you compare that with the days of the dodgy dossiers, and Alastair Campbell and Damain McBride and all that nonsense we had from the previous government he has done an excellent, excellent job and I think he should be judged by that & I dont recall anyone actually complaining in any way about how he’s acutually done his job at Downing Street. This is all about the past”….Just in case you missed it

  • Dave Simons

    I’m glad you’ve repeated that line about ‘conservative social democracy’ from a previous post as a lot of these blogs go off the boil with the lapse of a few days, so a late response tends to be unread. I think the key concepts you put forward – ‘the good society’ and ‘moral economy’ – would be agreed to by individuals and groups of any political tendency, even Nick Griffin. The other things you list – equality, social justice, fairness, mutualism and localism – are a bit less vague and general, and they have all been key concepts in Labour history. (I don’t include solidarity – the Tories keep telling us ‘we’re all in it together’).
    What usually happens with capitalism is that when business is booming nobody wants any rules, but when things go periodically pear-shaped everybody starts getting high moral and grumbling about competitors – US and Germany in the late nineteenth century, China and India now.
    The Labour Party has tried to reform UK capitalism and create a more redistributive compromise – mixed economy in the 1950s, middle way in the 1990s – but this has tended to create a Conservative backlash, with the usual resentment about ‘excessive’ public spending. The financial crisis of 2007/8 has presented us with a generational opportunity to find a solution to the recurring problems of capitalism, and while bankers and their Tory supporters want to get back to business as usual – how to rip us off and con us into thinking we’ve never had it so good – the Labour Party and maybe some LibDems and the Green Party and others have a massive problem to grapple with. All the big economic theories – Marxism, Keynesianism and Neo-Liberalism – have been tried and tested and found wanting, so where do we go from here?.

  • Babishop

    Have just completed reading Seldon’s book on Brown govt which is good companion piece to Richards’ Whatever It Takes,

    It is unbelievably bizarre to imagine Labor Party identities here in Australia tearing down their colleagues over 10 years with vicious, personal briefings to the media of the type that Mr E Balls orchestrated. Just unbelievable. First Blair identities, then turned on his own when the thugocracy finally captured the government.

    So you might get excited about Balls still being on your front bench but all I could feel was deep disgust at the depths to which the British Labour Party sank at the hands of this man.

  • Gilliebc

    That’s a very good post. But I fear it may not get the viewings it deserves. May I suggest you re-post it at the first suitable opportunity.

    btw I ticked the “like” box but it didn’t register. Just recently this often seems to happen. People are complaining about Disqus on many websites. Hope they get it sorted soon.

  • Anonymous

    I’m neither an economist or a historian so forgive me if I’m wrong. However, as I understand it, Keynesianism has never really been tried. People follow Keynes for a while and then monetarism makes it backlash and Keynes is proved right. Again.


  • Dave Simons

    The Keynesian consensus ruled in the UK from 1945 to 1976. Then Jim Callaghan made his famous speech about the problems of Keynesianism and after 1979 the monetarists were unleashed. After 2008 Keynes was back in fashion. I hope we don’t get another monetarist backlash as I’ve still got the stripes from the last eighteen year stint!