Someone very close to Ed Miliband once characterised him as 'strategically bold and tactically cautious'. It's worth trying to work out what that actually means in terms of understanding the cross-currents of the last few years, because I've got an awful lot of sympathy with Ed's position, in that he prioritised the search for unity. The search for unity is central because Ed came in with the simple understanding that Labour has only won convincingly three times in its history: 1945, 1964/66, 1997, and each followed 14, 13 and 18 years of opposition respectively.
So you can paint a fairly straightforward picture of what's happened over the last hundred-odd years, namely that Labour seldom wins. When it does, apart from the 13 years post-1997, it's only for short periods, and then it consumes itself in internal fighting, tension and ideological fisticuffs. Labour ignores the electorate and, funnily enough, the electorate ignores it and it stays out for ages. Ed's desire was to make a quick comeback, so unity became the organising principle for everything else.
The last Labour government was disfigured by internal gang warfare, drive-by shootings, and all that sort of stuff. We then had a leadership election which pitted not just brother versus brother, but different parts of the electoral college against each other. So to get through this and get back in one term, which is against the whole tenor of Labour history, Ed's priority was to make sure that unity was central, and it was. At the same time, and especially from I would say 2010 through to mid-2012, there was the excavation of some interesting organising and ideological concerns. There was an emphasis on new forms of community organising and mobilisation, away from the traditional, centralising vote-harvesting operation which characterised the Blair and Brown years. There was a lot of innovation in thinking which Ed took the lead on. It seems to me the problem really started mid-2012. George Osborne's often called a 'political genius', which is usually said to covers things like the Northern Powerhouse and his governing of the economy. But his real genius was to manufacture an omni-shambles budget which actually dis-incentivised a lot of the strategic thinking in and around Labour because Labour got a poll lead it hadn't really won.
The argument went around that you could bank this poll lead, partly because Lib Dem voters were moving away from the Coalition disproportionately towards Labour,...