Ed Miliband: "a thriving political culture and a thriving New Statesman go together"

Labour leader at the Statesman's centenary party.

Labour leader Ed Miliband paid tribute to the New Statesman’s role in creating a "thriving political culture" at a Westminster party to celebrate the magazine’s 100th anniversary last night.

And Miliband joked that the New Statesman made an "excellent choice in the Labour leadership contest [in 2010], one of three publications do so…one was a blog and the other was the Sunday People".

Noting that editor since 2008 Jason Cowley has increased print circulation in recent years, Miliband said that the title’s website now attracts around one million monthly readers, he said the New Statesman would probably have died after 85 years if it wasn’t for Geoffrey Robinson MP. He was proprietor until 2008 when the title was bought by Mike Danson’s Progressive Media (which also owns Press Gazette).

Describing the New Statesman as a magazine which has "an extraordinary history" he noted that it has a "complicated relationship with the Labour Party" and made somewhat shamefaced reference to his comment during Prime Ministers’s questions earlier this year when he said that David Cameron was "scraping the barrel" by quoting the New Statesman.

He said: "Sometimes Labour leaders make unflattering remarks about the New Statesman" and noted that Tony Blair included a veiled jibe against the magazine in his autobiography.

Saying that the New Statesman was important to the Labour Party, Miliband said: "Politics is not just about politicians, it’s about the ideas that shape the political culture of our country."

He noted that "both CND and Charter 88 come out of the New Statesman" and added that "a thriving political culture and a thriving New Statesman go together".

He said: "The unsung heroes of this magazine are the people who work for it. You don’t come and work for the New Statesman for the money, you do it because you care about our country and you care about our world…and it’s to them that I pay tribute to tonight."

This piece first appeared on Press Gazette.

Ed Miliband at the New Statesman's centenary party. Photograph: Getty Images

Dominic Ponsford is editor of Press Gazette

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.