David Miliband says not to expect reprise of "New Labour"
If Labour party leadership candidate David Miliband has his way, the last incarnation of New Labour is the newest incarnation Britain will see for quite a while.
Many Labour supporters are eagerly awaiting for Labour to begin rebuilding, as it did under Tony Blair.
But Miliband notes that Labour needs no rebuilding process to energize party activists.
"Our party activists and our voters are amazing people," Miliband remarks. "In the midst of this barrage of money and media, they stuck with us. This party is not walking into the history books. It's determined to be a 21st-century party. The fight and the determination and the resilience of the party members, supporters and voters is a great thing. Also there's energy because we've 260 MPs. That's a 1992 level of MPs, not a 1983 level."
Miliband also suggests that the Liberal Democrat's coalition with the Tories has given Labour the opportunity to "forge a progressive alliance within the Labour party of all shades of progressive opinion".
Moreover, Miliband insists that the potential volatility -- or longevity -- of the coalition government strips Labour of the convenience of a long re-building process.
"We've got to be ready for it to fall and we've got to be ready for it to go long," Miliband insists. "It's very, very important that we have a fighting opposition, not fighting with ourselves but fighting the government where appropriate. And that we're an alternative government. Whoever is elected is going to have to be a credible prime minister."
"We underestimate this coalition at our peril. The Tories have always been about power," Miliband explains. "Clegg has revealed that actually he's about power as well. After decades of moral sanctimony from the Liberal Democrats, we can now be absolutely clear that when push comes to shove they're happy to drop child poverty and the job guarantee."
"But the determination they've both shown is something we underestimate at our peril," he continues. "Because there's no inevitability about the pendulum swinging. And we are going to have to be very canny about how we position ourselves. The electorate aren't going to be studying us carefully in this period but they're going to notice how we behave. And if we go back to yah-boo politics we'll make a big error."
Moreover, now that Labour has been scuttled out of office, the party will have the opportunity to define itself as the party of change -- which it certainly couldn't credibly do while it was in government.
"This was a change election and we were not the party of change," Miliband says. "I said in my conference speech last September that 'future' is the most important word in politics and we did not convince our fellow citizens that we were the party of the future."
One shouldn't mistake Miliband's comments for a suggestion that the Labour Party needs no renewal. Rather, the party needs a small-scale renewal, that being out of government -- and with fresh perspective that was previously lacking -- be able to pursue.
"We all said we needed to renew but we didn't sufficiently," Miliband explains. "People felt we were late to the game on issues like political reform. Antisocial behaviour – we lost focus on that. Immigration, late to the game with the Australian points system. Social care, late to the game."
Moreover, Labour declined to act on far too many opportunities to usher in reforms while they were in office.
"We got told that political reform was a middle-class issue and we basically stopped," he admits. "We did the freedom of information, human rights act, devolution of Scotland and Wales, London. But we basically got frightened off. It was at best half a political revolution. Maybe a third. We should have done the House of Lords, for goodness' sake."
Labour would certainly expect big things out of David Miliband as leader. But apparently, they shouldn't expect a reprise of Tony Blair.