An article last week in The Guardian argued that Britain under Ed Miliband would be similar, at least in substance, to France under François Hollande. I think that claim is somewhat exaggerated. Although Miliband is very open about his left-leaning stance, I don’t truly think the two are comparable simply as Miliband appears to have more strength of conviction. What’s more, Britain already has a liberal culture that France has never obtained, thus shifting the political spectrum of the UK far more to the right.
Despite the over-exaggerated nature of this claim, one thing is certain: choosing Ed over his brother David brought the labor party back many years and undid much of the progress achieved by Tony Blair. My admiration for the work of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and many other ‘third way’ politicians is hardly a secret for frequent readers. Indeed, just a few days ago I argued that Manuel Valls in France could prove to be the solution to France’s antiquated left by proposing the kind of ‘third way’ policies iconic to Blair and Clinton.
In that same vein, David Miliband was a byproduct of the Blair years. Choosing the far less experienced and more ideologically leftist Ed Miliband was a terrible mistake for the Labour party. At this point in time, with the Conservative party in shambles over the question of Europe, a strong, centrist Labour party with a liberal economic message, values rooted in social equality, and a clear stance towards Europe, could easily deal the coup de grace to this beleaguered Tory party. Unfortunately, this is not the plan Ed has laid out. His ideological turn runs the risk of alienating potential coalition partners in next year’s general election. A ‘new labour’ type coalition could easily attract Lib Dems and perhaps centrist Tories to a grand coalition. Ed, however, is far too cleaving for such a bargain.
If any true parallel exists between Ed Miliband and François Hollande, it is that the rigidities of the respective left wings of their parties run the risk of sinking any chance they have at governing. The only true alternative to such a prospect is to assume a strong centrist position, one that will alienate the extremes, but also federate the far larger centers.