Readers may be shocked that Ed Miliband of all people is getting any credit from this blog, but he performed a valuable public service yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions – albeit unwittingly.
In his desperate desire to give the impression of being a strong leader – stop sniggering at the back – and take advantage of supposed Tory in-fighting over renegotiation of powers from the EU, Miliband accused David Cameron of ‘losing control of his party’. That little soundbite said it all.
There, in his own words, Miliband demonstrated he knows nothing about leadership. Among a number of important qualities, good leaders share one in particular, the ability to listen to and take on board the views of people who disagree with them in order to clarify or modify their thinking. Miliband’s perspective on leadership however reflects his dogmatic socialist worldview that leadership is about dictating to people, keeping them under control and only listening to oneself.
But what else can one expect from a man whose life has been one long training programme to become an MP; to the extent that he has never done a proper job in his life yet is worth several million pounds and claims to speak for the less well off in society? In what possible way can he relate to the everyday struggles of we ordinary people outside the establishment?
Setting that aside, Miliband unwittingly showed complete contempt for Labour Party members by trying to portray himself, in contrast to Cameron, as in control of his party and its MPs. The party is owned by its members, not Ed Miliband. Such arrogance is nauseating, yet uniform among the establishment claque of which Miliband is a youth product turned full member.
What all this underlines is that the party political process, which is riven with personality politics, does not and cannot serve the interests of ordinary people. It is said if politics could change anything they would ban it – that is only true of party politics where mindsets such as Miliband’s and Cameron’s are all pervasive.
Politics is far broader than the narrow interests of political parties, stuffed with control freaks who devote their lives to lining their pockets and accumulating positions of power as far removed from accountability as possible, while telling other people what’s best for them. Grassroots politics and campaigning, without stifling structures and dictatorial leaders, has and still can get things changed. That is why the politicians and establishment fear that approach.
We are in a much changed world and living in challenging times. Now, more than ever, grassroots campaigns rather than party politics are the route to achieving ends. Thanks to Miliband more people may wake up to this and see that loose groups with substantial autonomy, that offer a vision for people to support if they wish and gives them space to campaign in their own way, is far more powerful than trying to herd people within a party and forcing them to swallow whole that which an autocrat decrees to be the way things must be.
People want proper listening and receptive leaders. They don’t want to be controlled Miliband fashion.