When a shell-shocked Ed Miliband stepped down as Labour leader following the party’s defeat in the 2015 election, he concluded his speech by saying that:
‘The course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward. Change happens because people don’t give up, they don’t take no for an answer, they keep demanding change’
The change that party members demanded from the blank slate of Labour’s election defeat turned out to be Jeremy Corbyn; and Miliband slunk back to Doncaster to not ‘take no for an answer’ – from the scenic climes of the backbenches. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Last week, I voiced my frustration that Miliband was appearing more on Twitter than in Hansard. Just days later, he popped up on Channel 4’s The Last Leg, dressed as A-ha and lip-synced along to ‘Take On Me’. But then, who can blame him for having a good time when the Labour party is in such rude health and the Syrian conflict, which he was instrumental in addressing, has been solved, leaving peace and stability to reign in the Middle East?
‘I don’t resile from the decision,’ he told Adam Hills when he was asked about voting against airstrikes against the Assad regime in 2013 . ‘The biggest lesson of the Iraq war was: you don’t send our forces into combat unless you know there’s a clear plan, a plan which you believe will make the situation better, not worse.’ This is a position that will appeal to many Labour party members, particularly the 2015 intake, for whom the Iraq war is a burden on their identity. It’s also an attractive view for the anti-globalist, anti-interventionist right, who are frustrated by Trump’s intervention against Assad.