Ed Miliband's speech to Labour's National Policy Forum recently caught my eye. It gives a unique insight into the reforms which Ed Miliband wants to pursue in his time as Labour leader. However, there is a bigger problem for the Labour leader - his own popularity.
Perhaps the reform which has got the most coverage is Mr. Miliband's choice to ditch elections to the Shadow Cabinet. The argument here being that the Opposition should be concentrating on holding the Government to account, rather than wrangling over who can get the most votes from MPs. However, the counter to this is that elections to the Shadow Cabinet allow the team to stay in touch with backbench feelings. I tend to agree with Miliband, that a Leader should be allowed to make the changes necessary and that includes picking his own team.
You can see more of the uninteresting reforms in the speech by clicking here.
Whilst analysing the reasons that Labour lost the last election, Ed Miliband really did lay into the Labour Party. He stated:
You know they were livid about the banks.
Worried about the squeeze on their incomes.
Frustrated that their concerns on immigration were not addressed.
Angry when they thought some could work, but didn't.
And you know we lost trust, including because of what happened in Iraq.
We must prevent this happening again.
Miliband hits the nail quite firmly on the head here. It's like a roll call of the last 13 years. Banks. Squeezed Middle. Immigration. Benefits. Iraq. All the issues which Labour did not sufficiently address when they had the parliamentary majorities to do so. He also mentions MP's expenses (that old favourite).
He also mentioned that the party must not be afraid to be proud of its achievements. And they did achieve a lot, public services are certainly in a much better state than when the Conservatives were in charge. But, as Miliband points out, there were many big (and often political controversial) issues left unresolved. This annoyed the electorate and Labour paid the price.
Miliband didn't address one big issue though. Leadership. He didn't want to reform the way in which the Leader of the Labour Party is elected. Hardly surprising, as the section which you would reform (union voting), is the part which elected him. Some will no doubt question, whether this repositioning of the Labour Party as more of a party of the "working class" is to pander to the Unions which elected him. Or is simply a case of electoral maneuvering, which is needed to win the next election.
But, the problems run much deeper than that. Labour is more popular than Ed. When you look at Labour's poll ratings, YouGov on June 23rd 2011 had Labour on 42%. Certainly within striking distance of winning. However, as Mike Smithson points out over on the Political Betting blog, Miliband's personal ratings have slumped to an all time low. You can see YouGov's full analysis of this here. This is a big problem for Ed.
The senior members of the Labour Party again seem to have lost touch with the public. It's not how you elect the Shadow Cabinet that is important, it is whether the public see a party with values and policies they believe in; and with a credible Leader who could become Prime Minister. The party seems to have the values and nearly all the policies, but not the Leader.