Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hard choices (reprise)

Nearing the end of the Mandelson memoirs: love or hate the Prince of Darkness, they are essential reading for those who want to understand Labour's last twenty years, and the Brown years in particular. Memoirs must always be read with the caveat that you view the world through the author’s prism. However, at their best, they can be fascinating in revealing, through events, the strengths and weaknesses of personalities.

And what do we find, tucked away on page 526, but a little insight into the mind of Ed Miliband - written, of course, before he ever became party leader - on Labour's 2010 manifesto, which he wrote: 

"It adopted radical rhetoric, but when it was boiled down it was vague and appeared to avoid any hard choices."

Critically, the observation is not to do with Ed's politics, but his way of operating. Now, to be fair, since about June of this year, Ed has shown a much greater appetite for hard choices or, at least, risk-taking, as I acknowledged in my penultimate post, and others. But this nugget shows where his default behaviour had been coming from a mere year before, in early 2010.

We need to hope that this change is permanent and the result of an ongoing learning process, as it was for Blair, rather than merely a blip in an inherent and inescapable personality trait. Brown, let us not forget, was famously risk-averse, and it ultimately hurt him. But people can change, and politics is a game which rewards adaptability.

I refer m'learned colleagues to my own, earlier post on those same hard choices.


  1. I was told that, well before the 2010 GE, Ed Miliband found himself marginalised and removed from writing the manifesto. His policies and actions at Energy and Climate Change, were seemingly considered too left wing by the Brown government. It may be, therefore, that this comment was actually his criticism of the final document (amended from his original one) rather than a somewhat cynical sounding reflection of his intent.

  2. @Syzygy: Interesting point. It could be true, although it would beg the question why Mandelson doesn't mention it (I'm sure he would have been aware of such a move), or for that matter why Ed didn't mention it in their reported conversation.

    I don't think it was a deliberately personal or political attack on Ed, either: he is not noticeably anti-Ed at the time of writing the book, although later he did speak out against him during the leadership campaign, probably on the back of the political agenda he was by then pursuing. It comes across as a genuine comment on what he sees as a weakness of approach. In fact, what is remarkable about the book is how Mandelson actually is remarkably measured and detached, even about people who had a clearly malicious hand in his ousting from the Cabinet.


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