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.

Photo: Getty
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Unite stewards urge members to back Owen Smith

In a letter to Unite members, the officials have called for a vote for the longshot candidate.

29 Unite officials have broken ranks and thrown their weight behind Owen Smith’s longshot bid for the Labour leadership in an open letter to their members.

The officials serve as stewards, conveners and negotiators in Britain’s aerospace and shipbuilding industries, and are believed in part to be driven by Jeremy Corbyn’s longstanding opposition to the nuclear deterrent and defence spending more generally.

In the letter to Unite members, who are believed to have been signed up in large numbers to vote in the Labour leadership race, the stewards highlight Smith’s support for extra funding in the NHS and his vision for an industrial strategy.

Corbyn was endorsed by Unite, Labour's largest affliated union and the largest trades union in the country, following votes by Unite's ruling executive committee and policy conference. 

Although few expect the intervention to have a decisive role in the Labour leadership, regarded as a formality for Corbyn, the opposition of Unite workers in these industries may prove significant in Len McCluskey’s bid to be re-elected as general secretary of Unite.

 

The full letter is below:

Britain needs a Labour Government to defend jobs, industry and skills and to promote strong trade unions. As convenors and shop stewards in the manufacturing, defence, aerospace and energy sectors we believe that Owen Smith is the best candidate to lead the Labour Party in opposition and in government.

Owen has made clear his support for the industries we work in. He has spelt out his vision for an industrial strategy which supports great British businesses: investing in infrastructure, research and development, skills and training. He has set out ways to back British industry with new procurement rules to protect jobs and contracts from being outsourced to the lowest bidder. He has demanded a seat at the table during the Brexit negotiations to defend trade union and workers’ rights. Defending manufacturing jobs threatened by Brexit must be at the forefront of the negotiations. He has called for the final deal to be put to the British people via a second referendum or at a general election.

But Owen has also talked about the issues which affect our families and our communities. Investing £60 billion extra over 5 years in the NHS funded through new taxes on the wealthiest. Building 300,000 new homes a year over 5 years, half of which should be social housing. Investing in Sure Start schemes by scrapping the charitable status of private schools. That’s why we are backing Owen.

The Labour Party is at a crossroads. We cannot ignore reality – we need to be radical but we also need to be credible – capable of winning the support of the British people. We need an effective Opposition and we need a Labour Government to put policies into practice that will defend our members’ and their families’ interests. That’s why we are backing Owen.

Steve Hibbert, Convenor Rolls Royce, Derby
Howard Turner, Senior Steward, Walter Frank & Sons Limited
Danny Coleman, Branch Secretary, GE Aviation, Wales
Karl Daly, Deputy Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Nigel Stott, Convenor, BASSA, British Airways
John Brough, Works Convenor, Rolls Royce, Barnoldswick
John Bennett, Site Convenor, Babcock Marine, Devonport, Plymouth
Kevin Langford, Mechanical Convenor, Babcock, Devonport, Plymouth
John McAllister, Convenor, Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services
Garry Andrews, Works Convenor, Rolls Royce, Sunderland
Steve Froggatt, Deputy Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Jim McGivern, Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Alan Bird, Chairman & Senior Rep, Rolls Royce, Derby
Raymond Duguid, Convenor, Babcock, Rosyth
Steve Duke, Senior Staff Rep, Rolls Royce, Barnoldswick
Paul Welsh, Works Convenor, Brush Electrical Machines, Loughborough
Bob Holmes, Manual Convenor, BAE Systems, Warton, Lancs
Simon Hemmings, Staff Convenor, Rolls Royce, Derby
Mick Forbes, Works Convenor, GKN, Birmingham
Ian Bestwick, Chief Negotiator, Rolls Royce Submarines, Derby
Mark Barron, Senior Staff Rep, Pallion, Sunderland
Ian Hodgkison, Chief Negotiator, PCO, Rolls Royce
Joe O’Gorman, Convenor, BAE Systems, Maritime Services, Portsmouth
Azza Samms, Manual Workers Convenor, BAE Systems Submarines, Barrow
Dave Thompson, Staff Convenor, BAE Systems Submarines, Barrow
Tim Griffiths, Convenor, BAE Systems Submarines, Barrow
Paul Blake, Convenor, Princess Yachts, Plymouth
Steve Jones, Convenor, Rolls Royce, Bristol
Colin Gosling, Senior Rep, Siemens Traffic Solutions, Poole

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.