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Mel Stride

A leader for Labour

Thu 4 Nov 2010

By Mel Stride
Just prior to the leadership announcement at the Labour Party Conference, Fraser Nelson the Political Editor of The Spectator, said that he could tell by the look on David Miliband's face that he had lost it. I was not so sure. It is always difficult to judge those situations - win or loose I always assume that there is a sense of shock in the body and therefore no clear sign of which way the dice has rolled. On this occasion Mr Nelson was right - it was to be Ed's night - beating his elder brother by a whisker. Younger siblings up and down the land could quietly savour the moment - in the most dramatic of fashions the little kid just stood up and wacked his elder bro. But what does this all mean for Labour?

It has been widely assumed that David and Ed come from different sides of Labour's great divide. That Dave represents Blair's drive to the centre whereas Ed's heart and soul is vested in something more traditional - the leftist world of Brown, Kinnock, Smith and (if we push it a little as the press of course will) even Foot. Whilst a younger Dave toiled within Blair's policy unit, Ed wrote speeches for Brown at the Treasury. During the election the brothers argued that viewing them through some left/right prism was misplaced. To me, in a world in which the width of the political spectrum has narrowed I would buy this; the gap between them was always more about emphasis than substance - but as the contest rolled on Ed pressed harder to stake out a clear perception of a position somewhere to the left of his brother and critically close to the Unions who would bring victory.

This image of being the Unions' choice will be a tempting target for the Coalition government but I would counsel caution - Miliband Junior should not be underestimated and I predict that he will be as pragmatic in his campaign to become Prime Minister as he was clever in his lunge for the leadership. I would expect him to start to divest himself of his Union associations and to do this early on. He will have plenty of opportunities post October 20th and the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review (when the government sets out where the cuts will fall) and more militant Unions (Bob Crow et al) start jumping up and down. Expect to see Ed calling for Union restraint and in some cases lining up to support the government in various economic areas. The better way to put Ed to the test will be to ask him what he would do to solve our debt crisis - where the taxes and cuts should fall. It is easy to poke a finger at the Coalition's efforts; far less comfortable to put up your own prescription for examination. This is where we must press Ed and to where the country must look to him for answers.

Battle of Britain

In September there was a fly-past overhead St Paul's by the Battle of Britain memorial flight to mark the 70th anniversary of that extraordinary struggle. A critical moment when Hitler's Germany stood poised to destroy the RAF and pave the way for a possible invasion. Like Trafalgar 135 years before, the future of our nation seemed to pivot on a single engagement. At Trafalgar a matter of hours West of Cadiz - at the Battle of Britain an assault that seesawed through the late summer and autumn skies of 1940. Goering had assured Hitler that the Luftwaffe would neutralize the RAF and that was to come close to reality - on 30th-31st August we lost 65 fighters and six of the seven stations in the South East Sector were out of action. ‘The few' as Churchill described them were to prevail against heavy odds.

With the battle lost, Hitler switched to bombing our cities, notably London. But there were other cities that took it. In Devon some over 80 can still recall the reflection of fire in the skies above Exeter and Plymouth.

We should never forget the pilots of the Hurricanes and Spitfires of those precarious days 70 years ago. It could be said that they saved our country. That, in a sense, we owe them all that we have. As such, I believe, it would be reasonable to borrow for ‘the few' the epitaph to Sir Christopher Wren that sits within the Crypt of St Paul's above the resting place of her great architect - below the skies through which the memorial flight ploughed. Part of it reads ‘Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice' which with a gentle turn would serve well for the brave men of the RAF - ‘if you seek their monument - then look around.'

Other columns by Mel Stride

Busy right across the constituency - Tue 9 Nov 2021
Investing in local public services - Mon 2 Aug 2021
Corona - A year on - Mon 14 Jun 2021
Supporting our Local Communities in difficult times - Mon 1 Mar 2021
The PM’s first year - Thu 1 Oct 2020
Quizzing the PM - Tue 7 Jul 2020
It’s the economy, stupid! - Tue 11 Feb 2020
Vision for the Future - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Into the Cabinet - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Local Apprenticeships Matter - Fri 3 May 2019
Huge shot in the arm for our High Streets - Thu 24 Jan 2019
Reading - Thu 8 Nov 2018
EU - In or Out? - Mon 11 Mar 2013
Opportunity. - Tue 22 Jan 2013
Where do we begin? - Tue 13 Nov 2012
To Infinity and Beyond - Wed 5 Sep 2012
Working in Westminster - Sun 1 Jul 2012
A Better Balance - Thu 5 Jan 2012
Capital Shame - Mon 7 Nov 2011
Olympic Feat... - Sun 11 Sep 2011
The Coalition - A year on - Mon 11 Jul 2011
Labour Dreams - Sun 17 Apr 2011
Now we really must mean Business - Thu 10 Mar 2011
Freedom and Responsibility - Sun 9 Jan 2011
Education and Freedom - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Tradition and Words - Mon 6 Sep 2010
Mel Stride - Early Days in Westminster - Tue 6 Jul 2010
Mel Stride Conservative Parliamentary Candidate on The Big Society - Mon 3 May 2010
A look back over my years as Conservative parliamentary candidate and contributor to The Cottage - Sun 28 Feb 2010
Building the homes of the Future means giving Power to the People - Thu 3 Dec 2009
Early memories... - Wed 4 Nov 2009
As General Franco lay dying... - Tue 20 Oct 2009

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