Newer Labour?

  One week on from Ed Miliband’s landmark speech on Labour Party reform, things are looking generally positive for the party. In case you’ve been in the political wilderness for the last month or so, Miliband’s reforms are intended to complete the work of John Smith, forming the culmination of a 21-year process of democratisation of the party. Essentially, the three-college electoral system of the Labour Party – whereby the MPs, party members and affiliated trade unions carry equal weight in elections – is being replaced by a one member, one vote electorate. And this only 86 years after the UK itself introduced a similar system! My, they do catch on quick, don’t they?

  In all seriousness, though, this is a significant step forward for Labour. The issue I have always had with the party, and no doubt many others have experienced similar frustrations, is that is claims to be the party of the working people but in actuality concentrated its own internal power in the hands of its increasingly middle- and upper-class MPs and the frankly self-indulgent, megalomaniacal union bosses. These people did not represent anyone much, and as long as the party’s fortunes were in their hands no kind of moral high ground could be taken over the opposition. After all, it’s hard to criticise the Tories from being in the thrall of multi-millionaire business leaders if your own party dances to just as much of an external tune.

  Miliband, by breaking the stranglehold of the unions and bringing Labour MPs back down to the level of ordinary members, has made good on Labour’s claim to represent the people – made it good for the first time since at least the 1960s. However, by cleverly still allowing union members to participate in leadership elections – for a relatively small contribution as compared to Labour party members – he has eliminated the power of the big bosses without narrowing his support base. Miliband’s expressed wish is to bring more working people back into party politics – and with these reforms, he might just do it.

  With an 86% approval rate within the party – and this without John Prescott shouting from the sidelines – the reforms are looking popular. It is difficult to imagine Bob Crow and the other union bosses being too pleased, but no-one need lose much sleep over that. Perhaps they will take this as a sign that they, too, should look at internal reform – maybe even deciding to genuinely represent workers, rather than selfishly advance their own interests by holding the country to ransom? We can but hope. In the meantime, though, at least this shows that the Labour support base isn’t as idiotic as some of the people it has representing it.

  And with these reforms in place, they might get rid of some of them, too!

  The icing on the proverbial cake, though, is the number and diversity of political heavyweights who have expressed support for Miliband’s move. And, whilst the interjection of Tony Blair has put rather a dampener on things (why did he have to go and support the changes? That’s bound to put people off) the fact that David Owen – (in)famous member of the so-called ‘gang of four’ who split the Labour Party to form the SDP in 1981 – has been so impressed with the changes he has made a significant public donation to the party cannot be over-emphasised as a success for Miliband’s grand strategy. 

  It is just possible that the man who, less than a year ago, looked like the worst leader Labour could possibly have chosen might actually turn out to be the best thing that has happened to them in a long time.

  We shall see…


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