A belated progressive manifesto – ‘Go Big’ by Ed Miliband

By James Moules

SIX years have now passed since Ed Miliband’s disastrous defeat in the 2015 general election.

It was supposed to be a tight race, with prognosticators broadly assuming that the poll would end in a second consecutive hung parliament. But many forecasts went awry, and the Conservatives pulled off a shock majority win.

While Labour under Miliband had performed well among many polls in the years between the 2010 and 2015 elections, the public perception of the man himself rarely boded well for his chances at securing Number 10.

Despite being a likeable guy, Miliband was frequently characterised as awkward and weak – perhaps best highlighted in his wince inducing exclamation of “hell yes, I’m tough enough” in a Channel 4 interview prior to the election.

Now aged 51, Miliband has a new book out – ‘Go Big’ – in which he reflects on a number of progressive policies and ideas. In reference to the title, he recently told the Guardian: “I wasn’t bold enough” in his leadership of Labour.

In the book’s introduction, he writes: “When I began in politics on the mid-1990s the parameters of how things might change were pretty clear. Today, everything is much more up for grabs.”

Accordingly, ‘Go Big’ presents a far more progressive vision than Miliband pitched to the nation in 2015.

The layout of Miliband’s book is clear and methodical without ever being monotonous. Chapter by chapter, he examines issue after issue and idea after idea. Topics up for discussion include the housing crisis, the future of work, the concept of citizens’ assemblies and the ever looming threat of the climate crisis.

No reader needs to be a political junkie or policy expert to pick up this book. Miliband opens his chapters with accessible background and context for this readers, laying out clearly the arguments surrounding the various issues and offering his thoughts.

Miliband’s writing oozes with optimism at the potential for progressive change. Indeed, at times the book reads almost like the manifesto Miliband wishes he could have put forward in his leadership. ‘Go Big’ is brimming with enticing ideas for a better tomorrow which will give any British leftist a wistful feeling as to what could have been.

The catastrophic result of the 2019 general election for Labour – during which the party stood on its most left wing manifesto in decades – will no doubt give a lot of people with progressive instincts some pause at the prospect of embracing a more left wing vision.

But Miliband makes clear his belief that people can be won over to these ideas, writing: “Contrary to what many people believe, I think it is possible to find a broad majority to support at least some of the ideas in this book. If ever a country needed a project of national renewal it is Britain in the years ahead.”

At a time when the Labour Party seems trapped in an ideological wilderness, Miliband offers the seeds of ideas with ‘Go Big’. While it falls short of providing the fully rounded vision and compelling narrative that Keir Starmer urgently needs if he wants to make his mark, Miliband offers his readers plenty to consider.

Ed Miliband is far from Labour’s most successful leader, but that does not stop him being an interesting and worthwhile voice in British politics.

Featured Image: Official Portrait/Richard Townshend (Credit)

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