This article titled “Online fury at ‘spineless’ Ed Miliband over failure to back strikes” was written by Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Friday 1st July 2011 08.44 Europe/London
The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, is facing an online backlash over his failure to back Thursday’s public sector pension reforms strikes.
Accusing him of being a “spineless jerk”, “feeble” and “blue Ed”, some vowed to tear up their party membership cards, while others voiced disillusionment that Miliband had not turned out to be the leftwing leader they had expected during last year’s leadership campaign.
The backlash came on the Labour leader’s website in response to a piece he wrote setting out why he thought the strikes were wrong even if the strikers’ case was strong.
The majority of comments posted immediately afterwards were hugely critical – even by the standards of bile typical of anonymous online comment threads.
It is impossible to tell whether they are representative of party opinion or how many came from party members. It is also too early to say whether Miliband has made a strategic error or if the backlash will rid him of the “Red Ed” nickname coined by some tabloids and so define his leadership.
The criticism among the 80 or so people posting within two hours is overwhelming, including remarks such as “You don’t speak for workers and you don’t speak for the liberal left”.
Rob M posted: “I only joined the Labour party last year when I felt that it needed to take a good look at itself and reconnect with its supporters.
“Unfortunately, Ed Miliband is not the person to do this – he has done nothing to reinvigorate the party and pro-Daily Mail comments like this are shameful. I genuinely feel that the sooner he steps down, the sooner Labour can recover. He is weak and worse than useless.
“I am a teacher who passionately believes in education. My wife is a now redundant careers adviser who has spent the last 20 years helping disaffected children engage with society and work.
“While everything I hold dear is being dismantled by this government, Ed does nothing more than bleat that it’s all a bit inconvenient. For goodness sake, man, just go and let someone with backbone lead this once-proud party.”
Frank Gallagher warned: “You seem obsessed by getting the voters back who voted for Labour in 1997 and I’m sure your stand on not backing the strikers is behind this. What you don’t seem to realise is that you’ll lose the base Labour voters who are long-standing members and voters.”
Neil Fulwood wrote: “This comes as an 11th-hour, late in the day bit of milquetoast placation. Nothing changes the fact, Mr Miliband, that you sat on the fence. Your leadership of your party is nothing short of a betrayal of what, historically, Labour stood for. And it pains me to use the past tense in that last sentence.”
Helen Wilson wrote: “You know what, Ed, this does it for me and I will be returning my party membership.
“It is with great sadness that I do it, as my family’s involvement goes back to my great grandparents and the start of the Labour movement. But this is not a Labour movement they or I recognise any more.
“I hope you will be happy with the so-called squeezed middle, Ed. I feel you have sold out both the Labour movement and socialism.”
Rick Hall wrote: “I don’t doubt the sincerity of your argument, Ed, but I campaigned for you from union offices, and you damage the movement for justice and fairness in this divided society if you attempt to face both ways.”
Allan Challenger wrote: “Ed – you are making yourself look a complete spineless jerk … the whole point is that the government has steadfastly refused to negotiate from their position of untrue and misleading assertions about public pensions.
“The teachers’ leaders have come over very well and seem to be carrying public support … you, on the other hand, look feeble. Having recently renewed my Labour membership on the basis of your election, I am now seriously doubting that I will continue.”
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