It’s been a highly emotional weekend here in Manchester with such a heartfelt and well-received farewell speech by Gordon Brown followed by such a close and nail-biting result on Saturday to determine the new Labour Party Leader.
I was delighted by the outcome. After listening to all the candidates who came to Brussels for hustings with the EPLP, I was highly impressed by all of them. But it was Ed Miliband and his vision for our party which stood out for me and which is why I offered him my support in this campaign. I really think he has what it takes to be a great leader of our party and an even better Prime Minister of our country and I’m sure he is well-placed to unite the party and take us forward in a progressive, inclusive direction.
Of course much of the right-wing media and the Conservatives (who were already lining up even before the result was announced) have come out with their usual vitriolic discourse and will do their best to portray him as in hock to the unions or as ‘Red Ed’, seeking to undermine his authority and legitimacy.
But as he told Andrew Marr yesterday, Ed Miliband is very much his own man and together with the shadow cabinet he will take his own decisions and reach his own conclusions. He has done no deals and made no rash promises in order to get elected, unlike David Cameron who abandoned Conservative influence in Europe by promising to withdraw from the mainstream centre-right alliance of Europe’s political parties, all for the vote of the nasty eurosceptic fringe of his party.
Personally, and as a party, we have no apology to make for the trade unions. Today when I addressed Conference I said the Labour Party should stop sidelining the work we do in the European Parliament and treating it like some embarrassing relative. The same is true for the trade unions. The truth is that the trade unions were instrumental in founding the Labour Party and remain integral to our movement. It is only right and proper that individual trade union members are entitled to their say on who becomes the new leader of the labour movement. These people are our nurses, cleaners, teaching assistants, and so many of those on the front line of our public services. The fact that they have voted for Ed Miliband in their droves is as sure a sign as any that Ed really does get it and his campaign has reached and spoken to the ordinary person on the street.
It’s also very interesting that Ed has been elected with over 175,000 individual votes, whereas David Cameron was elected with less than 135,000 votes, so any attempts from the Tories to undermine Ed’s position should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
I look forward to working with Ed and the new shadow cabinet team immensely for what is shaping up to be an exciting new era in our party’s history.