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24 October 2015

Ed Miliband attends London Citizens training course

Former Labour leader has been studying community organising, Arnie Graf reveals. 

By George Eaton

In 2011, Ed Miliband hired Arnie Graf, a pioneer of community organising and a mentor of the young Barack Obama, to overhaul Labour’s campaigning. Graf’s engagement with the party did not end well. A Labour insider leaked details of his business visa to the press in January 2014 (Douglas Alexander has denied claims that he was the culprit) and his employment status was never resolved, leading to his enforced absence from the UK and the general election campaign. 

At University College, Oxford, last night, where he delivered the Attlee Memorial Lecture, Graf quipped: “I want to thank Ed Miliband for having given me the opportunity – it didn’t last as long as I thought it would, I had to be escorted out of the country. ‘I’m glad you’re back, I’m glad they let you come back’, even though I’m an illegal immigrant, so I appreciate it.” 

At the event, sponsered by the Southern Policy Centre, and attended by former Miliband aides Marc Stears, Stewart Wood and Tim Livesey, Graf later revealed that the former Labour leader had recently taken a five-day London Citizens training course at which he “learned a whole different way of thinking about politics”. He added that Miliband “sincerely apologised for not doing it earlier” and that while he “liked the advice” he received from 2011-13 “he didn’t often folllow it”. The former Labour leader’s renewed engagement with community organising suggests he may turn his attention to this area as he seeks to carve out a post-election identity. 

Asked about Jeremy Corbyn’s election, Graf said: “I don’t see Corbyn, I just don’t get it … I think it’s not about, in many ways, Corbyn, I think it was the party’s fault because they didn’t leave people with much of an alternative. The people that were running, in my estimation … they kind of represented the same old, same old … To his [Corbyn’s] credit, he hasn’t changed, much like Bernie Sanders, although Bernie’s much to the right of Corbyn.” He added: “My worry about Corbynmania … is he going to wear a poppy, is he going to bow to the Queen – is that really what he wants to be talking about? He’s not going to sing the national anthem … It feels a little bit to me like the ’60s in the United States of student politics.”

Graf also complained about the “condescending” attitude adopted by Labour figures to Ukip voters. “Either they were all [treated as] terrible racists or they were just bad people. Or they just didn’t understand that the Labour Party was the party for them – what is wrong with them? They should have asked what was wrong with them.” 

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