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Honest about thorny questions

Peter Hain puts the case for Ed Miliband

ontrary to hostile media pundits Labour's leadership campaign has enabled some robust exchanges on lessons learnt and future policies. But, for me, the real change candidate who has the winning X-factor is Ed Miliband.

His support is spread right across the Parliamentary party male and female, black and white, all regions and nations, new and experienced, shadow cabinet and backbench, left, centre and right.

With an open, comfortable, media-friendly personality, he appeals to the public. He offers both freshness and governmental gravitas; super-bright yet highly approachable. People warm to him, and he talks like a real person, uncluttered by New Labour's grating technocratic jargon and on-message guff.

He comes unencumbered by a label: neither 'Blairite' nor 'Brownite' caucuses have piled in behind him. Indeed he has often been a bridge between the personalities who spent far too much time competing against each other in government. That absence of the factional baggage so destructive throughout New Labour's life is vital to the central task of reassessment and renewal.

So what are the problems of the past? And what are Ed Miliband's responses to them?

The party must move beyond New Labour, retaining the best of its components but jettisoning the worst. There must be no going back to Old Labour's anti-business stance, whilst accepting that New Labour had an almost deferential policy towards markets, obscene bonuses and commercial greed.

Although there must be no retreat from Tony Blair's appeal to middle Britain, there must be an acceptance that this was too often at a cost of ignoring white working class concerns, especially over affordable housing and job security (which are the real reasons why immigration became the issue that dare not speak its name).

Although there must be a continued toughness on crime and rules enforcement, there often seemed too carefree an attitude to individual liberty, and too ready a reach for frustratingly complex bureaucratic regulation.

Ed Miliband has argued that to win back the millions of votes we lost whilst in power, Labour must learn from both its enormous successes in government and its failings, advocating a Labour agenda that is radical, empowering, internationalist and green, which mirrors Labour's soul with a renewed confidence in our values of social justice, equality, freedom and democracy.

He has also been sceptical about the somewhat gung-ho buoyancy in the party after our defeat. Although that is obviously far preferable to doom and gloom, the notion that Labour will automatically bounce back as the ConDem coalition splinters is fanciful. So too is the notion that simply having any young, energetic new leader will make the voters love Labour again. The reasons behind our defeat run much deeper than Gordon Brown's self-confessed lack of common touch.

We have to assume that this five year Parliament will run its full course and that in the meantime the Tories and Lib Dems are bent on a programme of political restructuring to entrench a centre-right hegemony and make it very difficult for Labour to win. That's the all too transparent motive behind equalising constituency sizes, abandoning generations of Boundary Commission criteria about sparseness, deprivation and remoteness. And it's the motive behind both parties' desire to restrict trade union funding for Labour.