‘Not Red Ed’ – reinventing Labour, again and again… By William Bowles

By William Bowles
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
30 September, 2010

It strikes me that we here in the UK have been top dog for so damn long that we’ve forgotten what it feels like to be an ordinary country, yet the memory lingers on…

“And it is why I will commit to you here and now. My beliefs will run through everything I do. My beliefs, my values are my anchor and when people try to drag me, as I know they will, it is to that sense of right and wrong, that sense of who I am and what I believe, to which I will always hold.” — From Ed’s keynote speech at the Labour Party conference.

What beliefs exactly are not spelt out but never mind, just like Tony Blair, fine-sounding words make up for any lack of content. So Ed is just an old-time social democrat after all? Amazing, after thirteen years of neo-Thatcherism, the beaten ‘party of labour’ all of a sudden rediscovers its ‘roots’. Who could trust such people?

If the whole charade wasn’t such a miserable and desperate attempt to regain the ‘high ground’, Labour’s attempt to reinvent itself again, it would be nothing short of laughable.

And predictably the media is doing the ‘Red Ed’ putdown, as the ruling class gets nervous about the possible reactions from ‘militants’ in the unions who were instrumental in putting Ed in power. So Labour has to tread a narrow and very precarious line between protest and the fear of unleashing ‘social unrest’ and ‘industrial chaos’.

The repeated use of the word “militants” throughout the piece is standard for the business-friendly press. So too is the use of scare words and phrases that are traditional warning signals of the presence of rabid unionists and other undesirables: “threats”, which are sometimes “veiled”, the prospect of “industrial chaos” and, perhaps the worst example in the interview, the fear that “TUC’s plan for organised protest” could “play into the hands of those who hijack legitimate demonstrations for their own violent ends”. – ‘Media Alert: “veiled threats” of “industrial chaos”‘

So what is ‘Not Red Ed’ up to? I hazard the following guess: It must have been pretty obvious that Labour would lose the election and having already stated that they would ‘put off’ cuts in public spending for a coupla years, Ed has predictably attacked the Tory/Lib-Dem govt’s plans to scupper our public services.

And it ties in neatly with his trade union backers who are mostly government workers, in fact it makes ‘Not Red Ed’ look squeaky clean. It’s a good move, though as the government has got over four years to wreck everything (if anybody bothers to vote in four and a half years), they’ll reelect a Labour government. And then what?

Surely, this Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum fiasco has gotta end?

The media of course, have had a field day; they finally have something/someone new to talk about. Someone who allegedly is not part of the ancien regime[1] and the now jettisoned New tag. It’s a facsimile of the Morning Star’s call for a ‘return to social democracy’. Here’s how the Independent summed up ‘Not Red Ed’s’ conference speech:

“As such it was the most daring speech from a Labour leader delivered for a long time. In his conference addresses Tony Blair used to proclaim his boldness while advancing views that had been common orthodoxy since the early 1980s. Ed Miliband did not repeatedly express his boldness. He opted to be genuinely courageous by challenging some of those orthodoxies. He did so partly by repudiating parts of his party’s past in terms that were explicit and cathartic: New Labour had become trapped by its old certainties. Iraq was wrong. New Labour had been too tolerant of light regulation and too dependent on the financial markets for revenue. New Labour had been too casual about civil liberties. The list of misjudgements was carefully balanced with many references to the achievements of 13 years of rule. — ‘The dawn of Generation Ed‘, The Independent, 29 September, 2010 (my emph.)

‘Generation Ed’? Puleeze! So, the past is behind us, welcome back to the future of ‘old’ Labour. After all, take away the four areas the Indie chose to select as proof of the arrival of ‘Generation Ed’ and indeed it does look like a pre-1992 Labour Party. The Star’s social democracy no less.

Others on the left sound also sound positively euphoric about ‘Not Red Ed’s’ success, for example:

“Early on, Labour’s most respected elder statesman, Tony Benn, backed Ed Miliband signaling to the rank and file that it was time for a return to Labour’s core progressive principles and her political base in the working class. Ed Miliband accomplished a few very deft and subtle maneuvers (SMS texting) that established his personal brand as the leader of the next generation rather than the heir-apparent of the last. Ed Miliband articulated his progressive vision by advocating, “a living wage,” the “greening” of the British economy and the introduction of, “windfall taxes.” — ‘Insurgent Ed Miliband Ends the New Labour Era‘ by Michael Carmichael

The parallels with Obama’s victory are not too far away:

“The election of 40-year-old Ed Miliband to lead the UK’s Labour Party proves the existence of a vibrant progressive movement in Britain that mirrors Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2008. In 2006, I met Ed Miliband at a Young Fabians seminar in the House of Commons. At that point, I felt that he was moving swiftly toward great things. (ibid)

But answer me this: If ‘Not Red Ed’ is to avoid becoming ‘Red Ed’ (and the media have already told us what they think), the last thing he can do is use the Labour Party to bring the people out onto the streets in protest. After all, wouldn’t this be the logical thing to do before the cuts take effect, never mind what we do after? It’s only by mobilizing people on a vast scale that we stand any kind of chance of halting the cuts. But it’s not to be:

““Brendan Barber, head of the TUC, is not asking us to copy Greek workers in their fight against cuts. Yet plenty of his members want to do just that.” — ‘King of compromise alone on a tightrope’, Sunday Times, 19 September, 2010

With a leader of the UK’s trade unions like Barber, who needs enemies? Ever since 2007 when the current crisis got underway, whenever the ‘people’ are mentioned it’s in the same breath as ‘social unrest’, otherwise we just don’t exist except as the ‘public’, that vague term that excludes trade union members (over six million), ‘militants’ (10-20,000?) and assorted ne’er-do-wells (number unknown).


1. Of course, this is pure BS, ‘Not Red Ed’ is just as much a part of the ancien regime as anyone else in the Labour Party’s ‘inner sanctum’. It’s all part of the process of shedding the past, again and again…


New? ‘old’-new? Labour, the election of Ed Miliband and the left By William Bowles

Insurgent Ed Miliband Ends the New Labour Era by Michael Carmichael

Immersed in Empire By William Bowles

Ed Miliband: Time for Labour’s New Genaration

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