Did Movement for Change cost David Miliband the leadership election? According to the soon to be published Tangled Up In Blue: Blue Labour and the Struggle for Labour’s soul, it may well have done.
The book, written by Guardian columnist Rowenna Davis, and published by that perennial enfant terrible of the modernising left, Derek Draper, is set to chart the rise, fall, (and Lazarus like re-birth?), of Maurice Glasman and his controversial fourth way philosophy. Focusing on the influence Glasman and his community organizing ethos had on Labour’s dramatic leadership contest, Davis is said to conclude the elder Miliband’s decision to place the embryonic activist group at the heart of his organisational structure proved a fateful one.
“At the heart of Rowenna’s narrative is an examination of the way Movement for Change shaped the leadership election”, said a source familiar with the book. “The big question is, was MfC influential in costing David the contest? From what I’ve read I’d have to say I think it did”.
The source added, “It’s clear that Movement for Change provided a distraction, and led to David’s team spending time and resources focusing on that aspect of their strategy, rather than organising and reaching out to the membership more directly”.
Although David Miliband and his brother were both interviewed for the book, it is said to paint a less than flattering picture of the former Foreign Secretary’s pet community-organising project. “The problem appears to have been that David and his team just assumed they would win”, said a Labour source, “they thought they could afford to do something at the start of the campaign [the establishment of Movement for Change] that they could just as easily have done afterwards”.
The focus on Movement for Change’s role in the leadership contest comes at a sensitive time. Last week it was announced the organisation was set to become an official Labour affiliate as part of the Refounding Labour review, which has also recommending rewording of Clause 1 of the party’s constitution to place greater emphasis on community organising.
Tangled Up In Blue, titled after the Bob Dylan song, will also shed light on the close relationship between Lord Glasman, described as the god-father of British community politics, and Labour leader Ed Miliband. In July the Labour peer caused outrage after calling for a ban on all immigration, a stance which lead to the disbanding of the loose Blue Labour coalition which included prominent centre-left thinkers such as Jon Cruddas and Jonathan Rutherford. Although Lord Glasman was forced to issue an apology via the New Statesman, sources who have read Ed Miliband’s contribution to the book say he is standing by his controversial advisor; “Ed has plenty of opportunities in the book to distance himself from Maurice. He doesn’t do it”.
Despite this there are few signs that Glasman is preparing to tone down his outspoken style; “If you listen to Maurice you find yourself half agreeing with him and half thinking he’s completely mad”, said one Labour insider. A podcast interview Glasman conducted with Rowenna Davis to coincide with the book’s upcoming Guardian serialisation is said to open with an outspoken assault on the public sector; “That’s the thing about Maurice”, said one Labour observer, “he transforms the discussion”.
The involvement of Derek Draper in the book’s publication has itself stirred comment from within Labour ranks, with some people speculating it presages a return to front-line politics for Peter Mandelson’s notorious former advisor. His last foray into the Westminster beltway, as editor of Labour List, ended predictably enough in scandal after he was linked with Damien McBride’s efforts to dish the dirt on senior Tories in what became known as “smeargate”.
However friends of Draper are skeptical that his publishing venture represents another political comeback. “Derek thinks there’s a vacuum in centre-left publishing that needs to be filled”, said a friend, “but he doesn’t see it as a comeback. He’s still focused on his psychotherapy work, and helping Kate [Garroway, his wife] with Goodypass [a web site that provides celebrity discounts to the public]”. A former colleague agrees; “He’s only planning to sell a few thousand copies of the book, and any profits are being given to charity. He sees Ruskin [the name of Draper’s new publishing house] as a project, not his ticket back to the big time”.
Derek Draper. Maurice Glasman. Ed Miliband. David Miliband. Movement for Change. All Tangled up together in Blue. What could possibly go wrong?