Edward Miliband: The UK Labor Party”s New Torchbearer of Hope

Posted on September 30, 2010 in GlobeScope

By Pradyut Hande:

They say desperate times often witness the emergence of an unlikely leader… a leade

r who treads a path of careful calibration and calculated adventure in equal measure… a leader, who inspires his loyal legion of followers, re-instills self belief and fills them with the insatiable hunger to scale the acme of success.

The UK Labor Party, currently Her Majesty’s Opposition, has battled the tumultuous tides of capriciousness and dwindling popularity that have ravaged its decadent hull over the last few years. The New Labor Government that remained in power from 1997-2010 undeniably had its moments of glory under the sun but on the whole, its tenure turned out to the proverbial mixed bag. Under the talismanic helmsmanship of Tony Blair; the New Labor Government began laying the foundations of a vibrant contemporary UK ready to tackle the omnipresent and ever-escalating challenges of the 21st century. Some of the noteworthy initial acts of the Tony Blair Government included the establishment of the national minimum wage, the devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the re-creation of a city-wide government body for London – the Greater London Authority – with its own elected Mayor. However, all their good deeds appeared to have withered away in the face of a raging surge of widespread negative public sentiment when the Government decided to support the then incumbent George W. Bush American administration in their “illegal war” on Iraq. Soon thereafter, unsuccessfully grappling with declining political support and myriad external factors; Tony Blair stepped down as the leader of the New Labor Government in 2007.

Blair was replaced by his trusted Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Although the party experienced a brief rise in the polls after this, its popularity soon slumped to its lowest level since the days of Michael Foot (Leader of the Labor Party: 1980-83). In May 2008, Labor suffered heavy defeats in the London mayoral election, local elections and the loss in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, culminating in the party registering its worst ever opinion poll result since records began in 1943, of 23%, with many citing Brown’s leadership as a key factor. Amidst this morbid background, the decrepit Labor Government stood precariously on unstable ground…its ouster was imminent. In the 2010 general election on 6 May, Labor with 29.0% of the votes won the second largest number of seats (258). The Conservatives with 36.5% of the votes won the largest number of seats (307), but no party had an overall majority, implying that Labor could have still remained in power if they had managed to form a coalition with at least one minority party. On 10 May 2010, after talks to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats irreparably broke down, Gordon Brown announced his intention to stand down as Leader before the Labor Party Conference but a day later resigned as both Prime Minister and Party Leader. Harriet Herman, the Deputy Leader took charge as his temporary replacement. Shunted out of power, devoid of strong leadership, battling financial constraints and an obfuscated long term vision; the Labor Party’s fall from grace was complete. Was there a way out of this political quagmire?

Now, after a four month contest for the coveted (many would argue otherwise!) position of the Leader of the Labor Party; Edward Miliband has been elected and entrusted with the responsibility. Miliband’s ascendancy to the Leader’s position is an incredible story by itself! The 40-year-old, former Energy Secretary narrowly edged out his older brother, David who served as Foreign Secretary in the last Labor government, by the most miniscule of margins of 50.65% of votes cast to 49.35%. Ed Miliband largely owes his victory to his popularity with the powerful trade union body that comprises one-third of the Electoral College. On the other hand, David Miliband who has often been viewed as a centrist figure whose relations with the trade unions were often strained failed to muster up the requisite percentage of votes even though he enjoyed greater support from the Labor MPs and members who comprise the remaining two-thirds of the Electoral College. Ed Miliband’s spectacular rise gains even more significance given the fact that his older sibling has been an MP for 4 years longer than him and was widely regarded as the “Leader-in-the wings” during the floundering tenure of Gordon Brown.

Edward Miliband has his work clearly cut out for him. His election may have come as the proverbial bolt from the blue for many quarters, but there are an equal number of supporters who believe he could usher in a brand new era for the Labor Party through his dynamic leadership. The incumbent Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government may have breathed a sigh of relief given the fact that they wouldn’t be facing David Miliband, but ought not to take the younger sibling lightly. Ed Miliband has already raised a few eyebrows during his victory speech and clearly does not espouse the brand of socialism that rendered his party unelectable when it last entered opposition in 1979. Backed by an astute clique of experienced advisors, Miliband ought to lay out clear-cut goals/objectives/potential policies with regards to key issues such as healthcare, public service reform, large fiscal deficits and foreign policy. He may not have the experience but he certainly has the oratory, motivational and managerial skills that would undoubtedly hold him in good stead. It now remains to be seen whether Edward Miliband can provide the stable and strong element of leadership that could breathe new life into the Labor Party.

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

Image courtesy: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:-Miliband_2010-3.jpg