Ed Miliband made much during the Labour leadership election of saying we had to ‘learn the lessons’ of why we lost power. Correct. However, we must also learn the lessons of why we won power, and won three general elections, among them the understanding that most people live their lives on or close to the political centre ground.
Another reason for the three wins, and all we did in the three terms we had, was the formidable political and intellectual skills of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. One reason for the former was that whilst often the relationship was productive, often it was not.
Both Eds were very much part of the GB team, and in their different ways made enormous contributions to it. I was part of the TB team. Despite the repeated differences between our bosses, far too often played out in public, I was always able to have pretty good relations with Ed M and Ed B.
But having seen so close up how the personal relations at the top can become as bad as at times they did, one of the lessons to learn is to make sure nothing like it happens between the two of them now. I am confident it won’t, but you can already feel the Tories and the media itching for it.
Ed Miliband has done a good job of pushing aside the ‘Red Ed’ label the Tories and their media supporters tried to pin on him. Ed Balls now has to do something similar in pushing aside the attempts the media will constantly make to build him up at Ed M’s expense.
We have all grown up a lot in the couple of decades or so we spent rebuilding the Labour Party. Ed Miliband recently told me he had been reading the first volume of my diaries, the Opposition years, and could not believe how much time and energy we had to waste on trying to hold key relationships together. ‘You had it a lot worse than I have,’ he said. That is good news. Ed has impressed me with his ability to appear unfazed by noise around him. He can take his time to develop the strategy for the fight ahead. Ed Balls has really impressed me in the way he had made the transition from government to Opposition. Theresa May will probably have thrown a little party last night.
So just as TB-GB was always an important dynamic in Labour’s march from Oppostion to government, so now is the Ed-Ed dynamic. The circumstances of Ed Balls’ arrival in this key post are really sad – Alan Johnson is a lovely man and it is horrible when marriages fail and horrible for the people concerned when it is all played out in public. But one thing I was sure of as I travelled back from Burnley through George Osborne’s constituency last night: the Chancellor is a more worried man today than he was yesterday morning.