"Red Ed" becomes leader of the British Labour Party
What Labour MPs were calling the doomsday scenario has happened. David Miliband won amongst Labour MPs and party members but a massive union vote delivered the leadership for his brother Ed. Opponents are already asking what legitimacy a party leader has who lost among both his own MPs and party members.
But this campaign has shown that Ed Miliband is a formidable opponent. He was by far the most natural politician of the five candidates. He has the communication skills that a modern politician so desperately needs.
The Ed Miliband campaign first became convinced that they were going to win when Lord Mandelson started attacking Ed. They believed Mandelson’s intervention showed that the party establishment was rattled and that the insurgent had the momentum.
This fight with the leading representative of the party’s old guard might have presaged Ed’s victory, but it also hints at the trouble to come. Many in the Labour Party fear they have elected someone who can win an internal leadership election but not a General Election. They worry that the reason Neil Kinnock has backed Ed Miliband so vigorously is that he sees him as his political heir.
At the start of this contest, David Miliband had the money and the big- name backing. The Chancellor and the Home Secretary from the last Government were both behind him and his campaign was being run by the man who had co-ordinated Labour’s General Election efforts. But Ed always had something that David didn’t have: an understanding of how to make the party love him.
The attacks on Ed Miliband from the Blairite old guard have been so strident because they fear what he represents – the end of the New Labour project. They are right. He heralds a distinct move to the Left.
Ed Miliband is not a politician searching for the centre ground. Instead, he is an ideological Left-winger. He wants higher taxes, more spending and more regulation.
During his leadership campaign, he made, according to the Tories, £28 billion worth of spending commitments at a time when Britain urgently needs spending cuts to deal with its unsustainable deficit.
The Tories have long wanted Ed Miliband to win. When I asked a Cabinet minister recently which Miliband he’d prefer to take on, he danced a little jig of joy as he said Ed. The Tories can’t believe that Labour have elected a candidate who wants to move the party on from the strategy that won it three Election victories.
Already, the Tories are planning to push him constantly to say what he would do about the deficit. In the words of one Tory involved in the preparations for dealing with the new Labour leader, ‘the deficit is the one thing that they can’t deal with’.