British press see leftward shift for Labour under new leader

26th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Ed Miliband's election as leader of Britain's opposition Labour party could see the party shift to the left in a move that might reinvigorate it -- or doom its chances of power, newspapers said Sunday.

During his campaign for the leadership, Miliband appealed to Labour's traditional working-class supporters in what was seen as a deliberate move away from the centrist policies of ex-premier Tony Blair.

The conservative press have dubbed him "Red Ed" and one commentator for the Sunday Telegraph suggested that in backing a return to core Labour values, the party had rejected an opportunity to win back power.

"You cannot play to your party's gallery so shamelessly and expect to win the broader mandate required in a general election. What an absolute disaster for Labour," he wrote.

The perception of Miliband's leftist tendancies was not helped by the fact he owed his victory to trade union support, with the Independent warning he must prove "he deserves a job handed to him by a trade union stitch-up".

But Miliband sought to play down this perception by promising in an article in the Sunday Telegraph to look out for the "squeezed" middle classes.

And the left-wing Observer newspaper said it was "facile" to label Miliband a reactionary leftist. Instead, it said he offered a welcome alternative to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition's economic policies.

"Ed Miliband won the Labour leadership with a powerful critique of the old economy that led us into financial crisis. He now needs an account of the new economy Labour would build in its place," the Observer said.

The coalition has planned major cuts in public spending to help pay off the deficit, and the Sunday Mirror said Labour had a "real chance" to win support by opposing these cuts.

Meanwhile The Sunday Times warned that Labour lost May's election because its then leader, Gordon Brown, "was delusional about the need to put the public finances back into shape and who tried to conceal the economic reality".

The new leader must be "straight" with voters, the newspaper said.

It also urged Miliband not to throw away Blair's legacy, saying: "Mr. Miliband has to renew 'new Labour', not abandon it. Tony Blair gave the party electoral appeal and reached parts it had never reached before."

Miliband promised to unite the party after the divisions caused by rivalry between Blair and Brown -- but many papers questioned whether he could heal the rift with his older brother David, who had been favourite to win the leadership but was narrowly beaten.

The Daily Mail tabloid described Miliband's win as "one of the biggest upsets in recent British political history" and predicted it would spark "a new round of bloody infighting".

© 2010 AFP

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