The media this week has been full of news about the Labour party with the Daily Telegraph making play about leaks that supposedly show that Ed Balls and Gordon Brown were plotting to oust Blair in the immediate aftermath of the 2005 election and the Guardian leaking the text of what would have been David Miliband’s speech had he been elected Labour leader.
Neither of these stories is in itself at all significant. The papers leaked by the Daily Telegraph do not show that there was a plot to depose Blair in 2005. The year before Blair had said he would resign at some point after the 2005 election. The papers the Daily Telegraph have leaked show the preparations Brown and his team were making in anticipation of that resignation. There is nothing remotely strange or sinister about this. One of the paradoxical aspects of the way in which British politics has been reported over the last fifteen or so years is that whilst Brown is invariably represented as plotting against Blair there is in fact no evidence of this at all. By contrast the plotting by Blair and his followers against Brown is ignored even though it is an acknowledged fact. There is no evidence of any plot against Blair until the autumn of 2006 (ie shortly before his resignation and after he had already said that he would not lead Labour into the next election) whilst no Prime Minister in modern history has had to face as many plots and attempts to remove him as did Gordon Brown.
As for David Miliband’s speech, this is a double non story in that he lost the Labour leadership election and never delivered the speech. What the speech shows is why he lost. It seeks to position Labour to the right and comes perilously close to endorsing the coalition’s deficit reduction plan. Had Labour pursued this strategy its criticism of the coalition’s economic policy would have been neutered and the coalition’s claim that the financial crisis was Labour’s fault would have been given credence. Labour supporters in the country would have been further demoralised and Labour’s opposition to the coalition would have been reduced to that mixture of tactical positioning and right wing populism on law and order issues that Blair perfected but which in the end caused the party’s support in the country to drain away.
As for Ed Miliband’s leadership, contrary to what some sections of the media are saying, it is in no danger. Whilst his impact has hardly been spectacular he has made no obvious mistakes and under him Labour progress has been steady. Every single Labour leader that I can remember with the sole exception of Tony Blair has been rubbished by the media. Whilst this causes problems for the Labour party it has not prevented Labour from winning elections in the past and there is no reason why it should so do so now.