What does it mean when the Labour Party is uninterested in preparing for government?

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July 7, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

There was an interesting clue the other day as to how seriously Ed Miliband and his advisers are taking their chances of being in government after 2015. Recently a conference was held in Westminster in which civil servants and political grandees offered advice to all political parties on preparing for government. The Lib Dems and the Tories went to the conference, even though they have just been in government. But no-one from the Labour Party went. No-one.

There are two reasons for this no-show. One of them might be that they are not expecting to be in government in 2015 so might think it is a waste of time – which would be a bit odd since in most polls they are still ahead. The other reason, which for me is far more worrying, is that they think they know it all already having been in government for 13 years until 2010. If this was a legitimate reason then why would the Lib Dems and Tories go to that conference? Being in government changes, particularly if you are likely to be in a coalition.

Labour insiders complain constantly about the people that Ed Miliband surrounds himself with, even more than they complain about Miliband himself. They say that the leader’s office is internally riven, unresponsive, bad at building alliances inside or outside the party, and more interested in building its own power than building Labour’s influence. Members of the shadow cabinet, and, significantly this week, the party’s policy review chief John Cruddas, feel excluded by how the party is being run.

Senior figures contrast the difference between now and the two years up until Labour’s 1997 election victory. One pointed out that from 1995 to 1997 they talked to everyone they could to learn how to govern properly and to come up with new ideas, describing the atmosphere around Tony Blair at the time as one of “intellectual ferment”. But at the moment Miliband and his team are uninterested in discussions, uninterested in reaching out, possibly because they think they don’t need to – as he knows everything.

Labour could lose the next election, and that might be a disaster. But there is a possibility of a calamity happening, which is that Ed Miliband wins the next election, but is such a terrible leader that the Labour Party will be out of power for a generation after him.

A good Prime Minister builds alliances, inspires confidence in those around them and enthuses their colleagues. If they don’t they can fall apart in No 10. There seems to be little time for Ed Miliband to change – which is why whilst losing is something to fear, winning could be worse

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