Second time lucky?
By Mure Grant
Image courtesy of Ed Miliband Org via Flickr
Towards the tail end of 2018, I wrote a piece in the Gaudie which set out my prediction and hopeful belief that one day Sir Keir Starmer would become leader of the Labour Party. If I was a betting man, I should have fired a few quid on such a projection—I recall the odds being 50/1 when I wrote the initial article—as of course, after Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous and humiliating defeat at the 2019 General Election (GE), Sir Keir went onto become the new leader of the Labour Party, receiving an impressive 56.2% of the votes (my own included) that were cast amongst the party membership. A feeling of strong optimism soon attached itself to Starmer as the potential man who could return the keys to No 10 back into Labour hands. Indeed, at the outset of Starmer’s regime, he came across as a far more confident orator than Corbyn at the despatch box, whilst also being able to radiate a greater image of competency and trustworthiness orator qualities that were severely lacking amongst the Old Guard!
Starmer’s upbeat start to his leadership reflected well in the opinion polls, with several even placing him comfortably ahead of the current resident in Downing Street. Nevertheless, the Honeymoon period of Sir Keir’s premiership came crashing to a halt with the outbreak of the pandemic. Over the subsequent twelve months or so, Starmer struggled to gather any sort of momentum against the Tories and their questionable handling of the covid crisis. In Starmer’s defence, it is probably true in saying that at the height of the pandemic, much of the general population would have had far more pressing concerns at the forefront of their minds instead of worrying about whether Starmer appeared as the next PM in waiting. However, as lockdown measures started to ease in the Spring of this year and people started going about their everyday lives once again, Starmer has still struggled to pitch his stall effectively to the electorate of what HE and HIS Party is about.
Coupled with his inability to shed his boring and stale lawyer persona, Starmer (and the Labour Party in general) come across as very uncharismatic and uninspired figures when compared to… dare I say it … Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party chums. This can be reflected by the catastrophic results that Labour suffered in the local elections and the Hartlepool by-election in May. With the next election scheduled to be three years away, there is still plenty of time for Starmer to swing the political pendulum back in his favour, but with numerous members of his top team sitting on wafer-thin majorities in their own constituencies (such as Yvette Cooper and Jon Trickett for example) it could be doubtful whether the parliamentary Labour Party will risk giving Starmer more time in the hope that he does eventually start to make an impact. But even if there was a coup d’état to oust Starmer, a major question still needs answering insofar as who would replace him?
For many, it would be a straight two-horse race between the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. A minor impediment in suggesting the latter two candidates, however, is that their mayoral term in office is not due to finish until after the next general election. Consequently, this is where the familiar face of Ed Miliband could fit in nicely. Before you start screaming ‘he’s had his turn’ and ‘start looking forwards and not back,’ hear me out first. Of course, Mr Miliband will forever be associated with Labour’s 2015 General Election trouncing by Dodgy Dave and co, but such a defeat can be attributed to three main factors, namely: Ed’s automated TV debate performances, the manifesto’s bland policies and the effectiveness of the Tories and their right-wing media friends to successfully label Miliband as an untrustworthy Marxist who knifed his brother in the back to win the leadership in 2010.
However, by ostracising himself to the political wilderness during the Corbyn-era, Miliband has managed to break free from the negative characterisation that had attached itself to him for so long. His frequent media appearances when combined with his own highly successful podcast ‘Reasons to be Cheerful,’ has shown Miliband as a humorous and relatable individual who has a true grasp on the policy issues that affect us day to day — all traits that are sorely absent from our current leader. Moreover, despite being summoned back to the front bench by Starmer in 2020 as the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Miliband has not been scared to contradict Sir Keir on public ownership of utilities and the extensiveness of the Green New Deal policy, as evidenced in his latest book publication. By being naturally further to the left than Starmer, whilst also having a connection to the Brown/Blairite centric of the Party (Miliband worked as a special advisor to Brown between 1997-2002) Miliband is arguably the perfect unity candidate who is best placed to amalgamate the Labour Party into a cohesive fighting force who is focused on tearing into the Tories, and not each other.
All this analysis sounds perfect in theory, but it is purely hypothetical in nature. Sir Keir is still the democratically elected leader of our party and deserves some more time before any drastic decisions are implemented in practice. However, by setting out Miliband’s strong credentials for succeeding Starmer in this article, I hope to have convinced you that this is a totally different and better version of the Ed Miliband that we experienced between 2010-2015. Dissenters may again argue that the man had his chance at the top job and failed horribly. However, and pointing to past precedent, it is worth noting that another Ed (Edward Heath) got hammered by Harold Wilson at the 1966 GE but came back to win resoundingly at the 1970 GE and reclaim his position as the First Lord of the Treasury. If a ‘Blue Ed’ could have a political resurrection similar to that of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday, why should it be any different for ‘Red Ed’?