Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Miliband and strong leadership

Michael Meacher in the Morning Star recently and correctly criticised the Blairite faction for its constant criticism of Miliband`s leadership,"spitting out its vitriol and bile".(Morning Star;23/06/14) The failure of the likes of Mandelson to go public in outright support for the leader of his party, when the general election is looming ever nearer, and when a divided party is the last thing Labour and its supporters need, is inexcusable. However, Miliband has got his work cut out if he is to win, not so much because of Blairite treachery, but because he is failing to provide, or give the impression that he can provide, the country with the strong government it seems to require.
       Thatcher certainly won over many voters with her strident personality, and her pledge to dominate the Cabinet; the "vegetables" joke was symptomatic of that domination! Churchill, despite his racism, his history of putting down the working people, not to mention his misogyny, won elections because no-one believed he could not provide what he wanted.Other leaders have shown exactly the opposite tendency, and have floundered come election time. In football, the strong managerial style of Ferguson won the begrudging respect of most fans, envious of the effort of his players, fearful of incurring the wrath of the boss. There was never a chance of him "losing the dressing-room", but whether Miliband has is more of a moot point!
     People are hugely in favour of Miliband`s brave attacks on the energy companies, but few think he can carry out his threat to freeze energy prices. Is it because he seems too "weird", as the right-wing press repeatedly say, or does the problem lie with the presentation of the policies? He even began a recent speech with the word "Friends", emulating a successful tactic of FDR`s in the 30s, so why is he not gaining the credibility accorded to the American president? Do his cabinet colleagues sound as though they not only agree with Miliband`s policies but were involved in their origin? 
        What does Miliband need to do? Strong leadership is usually signified by sackings, and there are certainly some people in the shadow cabinet who need demoting for their lack of loyalty, and some, like Tristram Hunt, who are alienating the very support they were presumably appointed to regain.
     He can also denounce some of the Blairite claims as the nonsense they are, the Blunkett "fifteen years in the political wilderness", for instance; describing the impoverished Britain of 2020, devoid of the NHS and welfare state as we know them, that would exist after five years of Tory mis-rule, would do the trick. 
    A third solution would for policies to be less compromising in nature; nothing smacks of dithering leadership more than proposals which are neither radical nor conservative, whilst attempting to be both. The pledges on capping rent in the private sector is a prime example, leaving present rent levels way too high, and doing nothing about the blatant profiteering and tax avoidance of the landlords. Why "tinker" when the country desperately needs "transformation"?
    There are also important questions which Miliband needs to address if he is to convince the electorate. What is his stance on Trident, with the possibility of saving £50bn or more? HS2 is something Labour seems to have gone quiet on, not even addressing the more urgent need for investment north of Birmingham. Then there is the vexed problem of support for Israel, which comes as second nature to America, but its refusal to obey International Law worries many in this country. The leader`s silence cannot be interpreted for ever as evidence that these issues are under control.
    Not only does Labour`s half-hearted acceptance of Miliband`s leadership need to end, a collegiate spirit and unmitigated support for Miliband must be developed immediately, or we wave goodbye to hopes for a Labour victory. With the majority of the media, including, sadly, the politically neutral BBC, enjoying their anti-Miliband "season", the need for unity is essential, but there have to be signs of strong leadership too!

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