Peter Mandleson’s comments this morning is just one example of some increasingly negative campaigning by a number of the leadership contenders campaign teams. After 2 months of generally positive relations with only a few weeks to go and the pressure increasing, suddenly it is fair game to go on the attack. But playing this game is both short-sighted and ultimately futile. Does any one of them really want to inherit a divided party, of which great swathes hold you personally responsible for the failure of their preferred candidate? All the potential leaders need to take a deep breath, reel in their supporters and continue to deliver a positive, issue-based campaign.
And this is exactly what Ed Miliband has been doing. Whilst Peter Mandleson tours the TV studios in Millbank talking in ever more desperate soundbites, Ed is touring the country, listening to real people and realising the New Labour brand is dead.
That New Labour did some great things is undeniable. The Minimum Wage, Equality Legislation and huge investment in the NHS and Education are things we should rightly be proud of, but only a fool would deny it’s limitations. It’s control freakery, it’s disregard for civil liberties, it’s love affair with the super-wealthy (and the policies born of that love affair) caused disillusionment in communities up and down the country. New Labour has had it’s time – we should offer it our thanks and move on.
And this is what Ed is doing. On education, for example, he recognises that whilst people supported expanding the number of University places, tuition fees were unfair and created a barrier-to-entry for those from poorer backgrounds. The result? A pledge to abolish fees and create a graduate tax. For me though the key to his campaign is fairness. As I said earlier the creation of the National Minimum Wage was a great achievement, but Labour didn’t get the credit they deserved for it. Why? Because offering a few extra pounds an hour to the poorest in society whilst doing nothing to reign-in the salaries of the richest can never be deemed fair. Put simply, how can it be right that a CEO can earn up to 200 times the salary of the person who cleans his office? By campaigning for a living-wage and looking into the creation of a high-pay commission for both the public and private sectors. Ed shows both an understanding of the issues and a willingness to tackle them that moves him far beyond the limitations of New Labour.
So, Lord Mandleson can deliver as many warnings as he likes, but he and his nostalgic pals fundamentally miss the point. Ed’s campaign is not about taking the party back to a pre-New Labour era, he can’t for he has already moved beyond it.