Peter Hoskin

Old Labour, New Labour – or just Same Labour?

Old Labour, New Labour – or just Same Labour?
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Whatever happened to Peter Mandelson's regard for Ed Miliband? A year-and-a-half ago, the Ennobled One was thought to have marked out MiliE as a future Labour leader. But, today, he pulls out the verbal chainsaw and sets about tearing him down. The younger Miliband, Mandelson implies in an interview with the Times (£), would lead Labour into an "electoral cul-de-sac," because, "to suggest that we should be concentrating on our core current voters … is by way of saying that we want to remain a minority party." And, just in case we didn't get the message, he adds: "we're not looking for a preacher as our leader." Although Mandelson doesn't say as much, it all adds up to an endorsement for the other Miliband brother.

As Tim Montgomerie suggests over at ConservativeHome, the support of Peter Mandelson is a mixed blessing, just as his opposition is a mixed curse. With the wounds caused by his memoirs still fresh on the Labour psyche, these subsequent interventions could just do the opposite of what's intended and harden support for Ed Miliband. But that's not to say that they should be disregarded – by Team Ed or by anyone else. Mandelson's diagnosis slices through to perhaps the biggest problem with the MiliE campaign: his failure to build what looks like a consensus across the party. Whereas David Miliband has courted the likes of Jon Cruddas, there is little outward sense that Ed Miliband has done much to keep the party's right on board with his left-leaning project.

The biggest loser from all this, though, is probably Labour as a whole. The line-up of leadership candidates never really promised a complete break from the past 13 years. But so long as Mandelson and the rest of the Old Crowd keep waltzing onto the stage, with their talk of Old Labour and of New Labour, then the more it looks like the worst option of all: Same Labour.