New dad Ed starts longest journey

By Colette McBeth
Political correspondent, BBC News

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, Ed Miliband is facing criticism that his leadership has so far failed to ignite Labour passions

So Ed's back.

Has baby Sam been keeping him up for the past two weeks? Probably.

Will he be able to show any sign of weariness? Absolutely not.

The challenges that he faces cannot be underestimated. Already there is chatter, although magnified by the media, I am told, that Ed's leadership so far has been a little lacklustre. So, sleep starvation or not, all eyes will be on him to sparkle.

In an interview with the Guardian (given while still technically on paternity leave) he sets out his store, warning the party that it should be under no illusion about the "hard road back to power."

"Opposition is a long haul and it is not like government" he says. "It's about digging in and it's not about short-term fixes nor shortcuts to success."

What he means is that he does have a vision and he knows the direction in which he is heading.

But policy is not formulated yet. Instead, a review will be conducted including commissioned work by think-tanks and studies by each shadow cabinet member on the issues in their field: "In terms of policy, but not in terms of values, we start with a blank page."

'Gossip magnified'

Labour MP Hazel Blears, who supported Ed's brother David in the leadership contest, thinks that is a good idea.

"It's early days and the pressure that has been piled on in the last couple of weeks for complete definition is a little unfair. I think the policy review is a good idea, as long we talk to ordinary people and don't just have a conversation with ourselves.

"The majority of Labour MPs want Ed to succeed and the gossip and tittle tattle is being magnified in the media."

Ms Blears is not the only one to suggest the mood within the party is a lot more unified than some reports would suggest.

But it does not help when your shadow chancellor gives interviews which contradict your views.

While Mr Miliband has insisted the 50p tax band is here to stay for reasons of "values and fairness", Mr Johnson has said that, in five years' time, Labour might not see the need for it.

Again the shadow chancellor is no fan of the graduate tax which Mr Miliband favours. Those policy differences will have to be ironed out, and in private, say some MPs, not public. But a source said the differences in opinion were much more minor than suggested, adding: "They will have no problem reaching a consensus."

'Profound change'

On policy, shadow business secretary John Denham argues that although Ed has made his views clear on a few specific areas, he will take his time to develop the rest.

He said: "We did just lose an election and we can't take the view that we got everything right and the voters were wrong so you do have to take time and go back to people to work out what the world will look like in three-and-a-half or four years' time and the policies we'll need then to come back into power."

As well as the policy review Mr Miliband will launch a commission on party organisation this weekend, to examine the rules under which he himself was elected leader.

The impression he is giving is one of a leader rolling up his sleeves and knuckling down. But there is a warning too for the party about the changes ahead.

He said: "I am talking about change as profound as the change New Labour brought because the world itself has changed massively, and we did not really change fundamentally as a party, or come to terms with the changes, and have not done so since 1994."

Let us hope baby Sam lets him get some sleep. Goodness knows he will need it.

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