What Miliband will tell his party today

"More of the same from us won't work"

Ed Miliband finds himself in the unique position as an opposition leader: ahead in the polls (or at the very least neck-and-neck) yet seemingly fighting for his political life. Some honeymoon for a man chosen to head his party just two months ago.

Miliband hasn't always played his cards right over the last eight or nine weeks: his promising PMQs debut was followed by several duds (although he seemed to be more assured last Wednesday); he has opened himself up to criticism over tuition fees; he has allowed his "enforcer" Alan Johnson to undermine him on 50p tax and on the graduate tax; and appears to be pulled left and right by a party in desperate need of an Alastair Campbell figure -- or so we are told. Notwithstanding all these criticisms one should, as Mehdi Hasan warns us in this week's magazine, always beware of conventional wisdom.

Today, he starts a two-year policy renewal process aware that he may have to junk many of the policies that made up the party's 2010 election manifesto, the manifesto he authored. (In this, of course, he won't be alone; after all, David Cameron was responsible for compiling Michael Howard's manifesto prior to the 2005 general election).

Judging by the lines made available to the media overnight, Miliband will continue to seek to represent the interests of the "squeezed middle" but accept that some of that squeezing began long before the coalition took over. This is what he'll tell the national policy forum:

Over the last 13 years we saw a tremendous expansion in opportunity. But people's ability to take advantage of those opportunities did not keep pace. And so, even before the financial crisis, people came to feel squeezed - by an economy that demanded more and more of them, by public services which didn't keep pace with their rising expectations, by the pressures on family and community life outside of their control.

The hard truth is that New Labour, which set out to help people have a better life, lost its way and people felt that we were no longer offering them a route to a better life."

More of the same from us will not close the gap between what people want out of life and what they can achieve at the moment. That is why we need to move beyond New Labour.

 

 

 

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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