Ed Miliband leads “new generation” of Labour

David concedes with great dignity.

Despite predicting in the New Statesman in December 2008 that Ed Miliband would succeed Gordon Brown, I am still stunned by what we have just seen in the conference hall in Manchester today.

There is no point in pretending Ed's defeat of David isn't one of the most dramatic stories in modern British political history. This is a tale of ruthless and focused determination, based on what Ed regarded as an importantly different set of policies. The result is that the Labour Party has today moved clearly on from Tony Blair.

Yet it was so close: David was ahead in the first three rounds and it was only at the last that Ed pipped his elder brother. David was the first on his feet. He embraced his brother warmly. He listened intently. And he kept his smile on throughout. But there is no hiding the fact that what has happened here today is a tragedy for him, one of the brightest and best in the Labour movement.

Ed will desperately be hoping he can unite his party and his family. Time will tell. In the meantime, this party prepares to walk out of the shadow of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The Tories will claim they are happy with the result. Yet Ed is one of the most charismatic and alluring politicians of the age. The fight for power at the next election has begun.

One word of warning, though: there will be endless -- there already are -- attacks from Tories saying Labour is controlled by the unions. Much of it will be nonsense. However, Labour would do well now to consider splitting with the unions which -- as with the C of E and the state -- would be in both parties' interests.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.