Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Rising to the occasion

Last Friday Ed Miliband was the guest of honour at a 500-strong Labour party dinner in Liverpool. He received a warm and enthusiastic response from the party faithful. It was one of four speeches I have heard Ed deliver in the space of seven days.

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The others were his House of Commons speech supporting UN Resolution 1973 on Libya; his contribution at the launch of the ‘Labour Yes to AV’ campaign and his response to George Osborne’s budget.

You don’t have to agree with Ed on Libya or AV (though I happen to share strongly his views on both) to recognise the powerful leadership qualities that he has demonstrated over the past week. His speech on Libya was one of the best House of Commons performances I have ever witnessed. He combined the authority of a statesman with the passion of a true internationalist. In their response to the crisis in north Africa and the Middle East, Ed and Douglas Alexander are mapping out a progressive direction for Labour’s foreign policy – one that learns the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq but also the lessons of Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

On AV, Ed could have kept his head down – instead he set out a convincing argument not only for Labour people to vote Yes but more broadly for the importance of pluralism and democratic reform to the future of progressive politics. Many in the Labour party take a different view and I believe it is a symbol of our maturity that Labour people can campaign on opposite sides in the AV referendum whilst campaigning together for victory in the crucial elections being held on the same day.

Of course, the next general election will not be determined by the positions we take today on Libya or AV. However, Ed’s serious and thoughtful approach to these (and other) issues will help shape public perceptions of his leadership. Foreign policy rarely decides the outcome of elections but the capacity to respond well in a crisis is a vital barometer of political leadership. Democratic reform is not a big issue ‘on the doorstep’ but a willingness to reach out beyond the ranks of the Party faithful will be vital to Labour’s future prospects.

The economy will be the key battleground between now and the next general election. Here again, Ed’s impressive response to the budget statement should give Labour people cause for cautious optimism. He and Ed Balls are working hard to map a new economic policy that learns from the weaknesses as well as the strengths of our recent record in government. By acknowledging where we went wrong and focusing on the need for economic growth, Ed’s approach on the economy can start to win back public trust for Labour.

Six months on from the leadership election Ed has risen to some of the key challenges facing the country and our party. The road ahead is a long one but there is a real sense of momentum and unity of purpose behind Ed’s leadership.


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Stephen Twigg MP

is chair of the international development select committee


  • I have to admit that I am surprised by the level of charisma shown in Ed’s emotive speeches, the problem however, is the lack of alternatives proposed. Of course that’s not to say he leaves them out entirely, but there’s not enough. He risks falling prey to the old insult ‘Style over substance’ and I would rather not see such a potentially fantastic PM fail at the last hurdle because of such a thing.

  • “On AV, Ed could have kept his head down – instead he set out a convincing argument”. As someone who was standing in the next local elections after years of wanting to and who has now withdrawn my application because of Ed’s support for the ‘miserable little compromise’ I have to say the last thing he has done is set out a convincing argument. I’d even question Ed’s wisdom of defending ‘our’ stance of sharing a stage with Gaddafi “no matter how much we didn’t like doing it” when and if his views on AV are so strong he can’t bring himself to share a stage with his ‘silent ally’ Mr Clegg.

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