David Miliband declares the end of “New Labour”

Contest hots up as two talented brothers compete to lead “Next Labour”.

In March, I coined the term "Next Labour" to describe the new generation of Labour politicians who were desperate to break free from the destructive labels "Blairite" and "Brownite".

Today, the unofficial leader of the Next Generation, David Miliband, emphasises the sentiment, declaring:

New Labour isn't new any more. What I'm interested in is next Labour. And the route to next Labour is to be listening. Labour listening, talking, engaging, discussing - debating Labour.

The former foreign secretary adds:

Blairites, Brownites, that's past.

And significantly, he praises left-winger Jon Cruddas, who offers similar praise to Miliband and who may team up with his colleague as part of a "dream ticket" if Cruddas doesn't run himself.

[Cruddas] has taught me a lot. He has been talking about housing for a long time. He has been talking about community organising for a long time.

Miliband's intervention comes a day after his slightly younger brother, Ed, threw his hat into the ring. I have long seen Ed Miliband as a potential leader, first tipping in the NS back in 2008, when he was barely recognised by the commentariat. However, I must confess to some surprise at his choice to run this time, and can believe reports that he was in "agony" over the decision to stand against his brother.

But the decision is probably healthy. Many party insiders, notably Charles Clarke, believe that New Labour was badly damaged by Gordon Brown's decision not to run in 1994 (Clarke believes it would have been better had he run -- and lost), and the party has not had a leadership contest since then.

Rationally, it is probably true to say that the more candidates, the better. And one way or another, it is almost certain that a Miliband will be leading the party soon enough: Ladbrokes says that 90 per cent of the money placed on the contest has been for one or the other of the clever brothers.

It's also worth remembering that the bookies were a bit more accurate than the polls when it came to the general election.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Why Clive Lewis was furious when a Trident pledge went missing from his speech

The shadow defence secretary is carving out his own line on security. 

Clive Lewis’s first conference speech as shadow defence secretary has been overshadowed by a row over a last-minute change to his speech, when a section saying that he “would not seek to change” Labour’s policy on renewing Trident submarines disappeared.

Lewis took the stage expecting to make the announcement and was only notified of the change via a post-it note, having reportedly signed it of with the leader’s office in advance. 

Lewis was, I’m told, “fucking furious”, and according to Kevin Schofield over at PoliticsHome, is said to have “punched a wall” in anger at the change. The finger of blame is being pointed at Jeremy Corbyn’s press chief, Seumas Milne.

What’s going on? The important political context is the finely-balanced struggle for power on Labour’s ruling national executive committee, which has tilted away from Corbyn after conference passed a resolution to give the leaders of the Welsh and Scottish parties the right to appoint a representative each to the body. (Corbyn, as leader, has the right to appoint three.)  

One of Corbyn’s more resolvable headaches on the NEC is the GMB, who are increasingly willing to challenge  the Labour leader, and who represent many of the people employed making the submarines themselves. An added source of tension in all this is that the GMB and Unite compete with one another for members in the nuclear industry, and that being seen to be the louder defender of their workers’ interests has proved a good recruiting agent for the GMB in recent years. 

Strike a deal with the GMB over Trident, and it could make passing wider changes to the party rulebook through party conference significantly easier. (Not least because the GMB also accounts for a large chunk of the trade union delegates on the conference floor.) 

So what happened? My understanding is that Milne was not freelancing but acting on clear instruction. Although Team Corbyn are well aware a nuclear deal could ease the path for the wider project, they also know that trying to get Corbyn to strike a pose he doesn’t agree with is a self-defeating task. 

“Jeremy’s biggest strength,” a senior ally of his told me, “is that you absolutely cannot get him to say something he doesn’t believe, and without that, he wouldn’t be leader. But it can make it harder for him to be the leader.”

Corbyn is also of the generation – as are John McDonnell and Diane Abbott – for whom going soft on Trident was symptomatic of Neil Kinnock’s rightward turn. Going easy on this issue was always going be nothing doing. 

There are three big winners in all this. The first, of course, are Corbyn’s internal opponents, who will continue to feel the benefits of the GMB’s support. The second is Iain McNicol, formerly of the GMB. While he enjoys the protection of the GMB, there simply isn’t a majority on the NEC to be found to get rid of him. Corbyn’s inner circle have been increasingly certain they cannot remove McNicol and will insead have to go around him, but this confirms it.

But the third big winner is Lewis. In his praise for NATO – dubbing it a “socialist” organisation, a reference to the fact the Attlee government were its co-creators – and in his rebuffed attempt to park the nuclear issue, he is making himeslf the natural home for those in Labour who agree with Corbyn on the economics but fear that on security issues he is dead on arrival with the electorate.  That position probably accounts for at least 40 per cent of the party membership and around 100 MPs. 

If tomorrow’s Labour party belongs to a figure who has remained in the trenches with Corbyn – which, in my view, is why Emily Thornberry remains worth a bet too – then Clive Lewis has done his chances after 2020 no small amount of good. 

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