No one likes Ed Miliband. But he doesn't care.

Those wanting definition from Ed Miliband will have to wait no longer

Followers of Millwall football club have a favourite chant. "No one likes us", they sing, "but we don't care". It is defiant. Aggressive. Invariably uttered in support of a losing cause.

This week's Labour conference has emitted a similar roar. Ed Ball's unwavering defence of the economic agenda rejected so overwhelmingly at the last election. Ivan Lewis' bravura assault on the media barely hours before they passed judgment on his leader.

The political rule book was being torn up in front of our eyes, even before Ed Miliband arrived on stage. He did so with the opinion polls snapping at his heels and the electorate uncertain of his agenda, or even his identity. No matter. "We just can't get enough", was the tune pumped out to delegates in the minutes before he strode onto the stage. You may not like Ed Miliband. But we don't care.

The old game plan for Labour in opposition was clear. Ingratiate yourself with big business. Embrace aspiration. Rub shoulders easily with the establishment. Tony Blair wanted everyone to like him, and went to extraordinary lengths to ensure they did.

Ed Miliband rose. He was speaking from Liverpool; "Labour Liverpool". Large swathes of the country had turned blue 18 months ago. Not Liverpool. Liverpool likes Labour. It doesn't care.

His predecessors had abided by the golden rule of British politics. Don't mess with Rupert Murdoch. Not Ed. "I'm going to do things my own way", he intoned; "Nobody ever changed anything on the basis of consensus. Or wanting to be liked".

The nation had been rent asunder by riots. David Cameron had threatened to call in the army, fire plastic bullets, bring out the water cannon. The polls showed most people supported him. But not Ed. "I'm not with the Prime Minister", he said, "I will never write off whole parts of the country by calling them sick". People may want rioters thrown out of their council houses. Ed doesn't care.

New Labour had stood alongside vested interests. Ed wouldn't. The energy companies. The banks. Fred Goodwin. Ed doesn't like them. And he doesn't care who knows it.

His predecessors had kept their hands off big business. No longer. "When I am Prime Minister, how we tax, what government buys, how we regulate, what we celebrate will be in the service of Britain's producers", he warned, "And don't let anyone tell you that is the anti-business choice". He'd be a hands on Prime Minister. Business may not like it. By why should he care? "I will take on vested interests wherever they are because that is how we defend the public interest".

People have been calling for definition from Ed Miliband. Today they got it. They have been calling for a narrative. From now on, they will be able to read it. They have been demanding strategy. From today they will be able to follow it.

New Labour's brand of neo-liberal conservatism has been formally buried. Liberal, socially progressive interventionism is the new way. The Ed Miliband way.

"I am not Tony Blair" he said. The audience cheered. The rest of the country used to like Tony Blair. So what. Ed Miliband doesn't care.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.