by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 27
September 2019
Video
11:18

Watch: John McDonnell takes a swipe at Ed Miliband

This was quite a moment. First up at the NEF event at the Labour Party Conference this week was Ed Miliband, who gave a lively speech in which he bent over backwards to be complimentary to the leadership and the importance of what “John” was announcing about a four day week.

Next up came John McDonnell himself, who didn’t exactly return the favour.

Looking straight at Ed Miliband, Labour leader until four years ago, seated metres away from him in the middle of the front row, he said:

When you think how, as a movement, only a few years ago how cowed we were, how willing to accept austerity, how willing to accept the ideas of neoliberalism as common sense – just how much over the last four years we’ve been able to reject all that and develop our own ideas, but do it with not self confidence, almost into a cockiness quite honestly.
- John McDonnell

Ouch. You could feel the temperature drop, and Ed left shortly afterwards.

Brutal as McDonnell’s assessment was, it hurts because it’s true. I never accepted the narrative, pushed by many at the time, that Labour lost the 2015 election because it went too far to the Left; in reality, Ed Miliband’s braver instincts lost out, and Ed Balls’ acceptance of the framing of the deficit debate by the Tories lost them their opportunity to offer something different. The final offer was messy and weak as a result (and the election of Corbyn shortly afterwards proved the appetite for something different).

Ed Miliband is still impressive and energetic though – his full speech is below:

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