Ed Miliband needs to tell Britain what he’s really thinking—if he knowsby Jonathan Derbyshire / August 21, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
The 10 brains of Edwardian Labour
In late July, on the hottest day of the year, a couple of hundred Labour Party members, trade unionists and local authority workers crammed into a stifling third-floor room at the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, just down the road from Waterloo station in London. They were there to hear Ed Miliband explain proposed changes to the party’s relationship with the unions. This was his response to the debacle in the Scottish constituency of Falkirk, where, it was alleged, the Unite union had tried to rig the contest to select a parliamentary candidate.
Miliband, tieless and speaking without notes, said the proposal to end the automatic affiliation of some three million trade union members to the Labour Party was “historic.” This was a chance, he declared, to turn Labour into a “genuinely 21st-century party.” For too long, the Labour leader went on, ordinary trade unionists “have felt that one side in politics, the Tories, writes them off, and the other side, Labour, takes them for granted. Now we as a Labour Party will have a direct interest in saying to those working people, ‘We can’t take you for granted.’ We’ve got to reach out and persuade them to become affiliated members of our party.” This was stirring stuff, and a reminder that, at close quarters, Miliband does revivalist fervour with a flair that belies the popular image of him as a man more at home in the seminar room than on the soapbox.