Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Miliband's moment

It has been fascinating to watch Ed Miliband over the past week or so as he's handled the Murdoch scandal. Miliband seems to be ahead of the curve, leading the issue and tapping into the political zeitgeist in just the right ways thus far. Where might it go? Lots of talk. Here's John Burns of the New York Times:
Beyond the immediate politics, there was a growing sense across the country that the crisis had raised fundamental questions about the culture of collusion between politicians and the press and revealed a deeper malaise in British life that could dominate the national political scene for months or years to come.

Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour opposition, delivered a broadside against Mr. Cameron on Monday that sought to tap into the public outrage over the scandal by linking it to a series of crises in recent years — the role of the banks in the financial crisis that hit in 2008, the furor over lawmakers’ expense abuses in 2009 and now the tabloid scandal. Commentators said his goal was to weaken Mr. Cameron’s coalition government if the scandal continues to escalate, and to cast himself as a credible alternate prime minister should Mr. Cameron fall.
There is another good point raised in this column on, again, Miliband's performance but also this:
Politicians are always late in adapting to profound external change. In the 1970s successive governments persisted in pursuing evidently outdated and failing corporatist policies because they had been conditioned to believe that this was what they did. Once again, moving into a new epoch, leaders have tried to press the same old buttons and found they no longer work.

These are early days. Cameron/Osborne still have time to adapt, but Miliband and some Liberal Democrats have moved faster so far. The stakes could not be higher. Those that can break free from their past will be the dominant forces in British politics for the next decade at least.
Toynbee echoes that point here:
Everything has changed for Labour, at least for now. Ed Miliband was first to see that here at last was the chance to stand up to bullies, first to push for lasting change, no more crawling, as he said in today'sspeech denouncing "large concentrations of power that lead to abuses and to neglect of responsibility". He linked all the "powerful people who answered to nobody", the out-of-control bankers, the tax-avoiding corporations, dishonest MPs who had indulged in a "culture of entitlement" and News International "which thought it was beyond responsibility". Here is a David slinging stones at the Goliaths who overshadow democracy, making people feel it's hardly worth voting.

High risk? It might have been for Blair, but not for Miliband – because he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is why in the difficult choice between two able brothers it was right to choose the one who could break free from the past, least contaminated, most able to start afresh.
A young progressive leader seeing the moving parts at play in their democracy, sensing the moment when it's time to say enough's enough even though there are still huge risks in the air. The British press still has a large right wing contingent beyond Murdoch. But Miliband seems to be the one who is - to use a hockey metaphor since that's what we do - skating to where the puck will be. Whether he will keep it up throughout and whether this will be the start of a new courageous path for Miliband, we'll see. Kind of fun to be watching that angle from the Canadian perspective.