This, more or less, was the first message that the new leader of the British Labour Party sought to communicate.
His first media offensive didn’t take aim at the savage public sector cuts being implemented by the tory government. It wasn’t focussed on the terrifying levels of control that undemocratic institutions (the financial sector, corporations, the media, markets) now possess over modern society. Or the dreadful mess they’ve made with it. He didn’t even use the publicity generated by his election to establish clear water between himself and the thoroughly discredited governments of his predecessors.
Nope, the ironically nicknamed “Red Ed” chose instead to assure the nation that he is — in essence — no different to every other career politician within a mile of power during the past couple of decades. He is of the Ineffectual Centre, and don’t anyone forget it. His dismissal of the unions was a dismissal of the ever-dwindling working class. Sure, he knows he’ll have to submit to some photo-ops in factories, supermarkets and (wearing a hard hat) on one of Britain’s few remaining construction projects. That’s par for the course for any politician, whatever the party.
Just please don’t get the impression he actually represents those people.
I’m convinced that the “Red Ed” nickname is, genuinely, nothing more than the result of lazy tabloid headline writers who like the rhyme, despite knowing nothing whatsoever about the man’s politics. Yes, he has said that his own ideas for cutting the deficit involve less spending cuts and more tax increases than the tories (or indeed than Alistair Darling, the author of the last New Labour budget). But it’s pretty marginal stuff. He’s certainly not talking about nationalising essential industries or shifting away from a profit-driven model of economic activity (which, whether you agree with them or not, would be the kind of ideas that actually warrant the sobriquet “Red Ed”).
As power has drained out of politics, so modern politicians — even those at the very top — have become middle management. The aims and values of society are dictated to them by markets and tabloids. And like middle management the world over, they have a little bit of leeway as to how best those aims can be achieved and those values upheld. But it is only a little bit. They certainly have almost no control over the aims and values themselves.
Ed Miliband, newly elected leader of the Labour Party, has spent his first day at the helm desperately trying to reassure markets and tabloids that he is willing to toe their line. That he has no plans to challenge their leadership. And that he certainly has no intention of representing the people who actually elected him.
Which, I suppose, makes him perfectly qualified to be the next Prime Minister when the current UK government fails.