Many people in the voluntary sector will feel a small glow of satisfaction at the election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader, no matter what they think of his politics, the mode of his election or the fraternal ‘psychodrama’.
His first job in government was at the then Office of the Third Sector, a new mini-department created in the Cabinet Office by Tony Blair in 2006. He made a success of it and it boosted his upward trajectory. So there is a small sense of ‘we made him’ – of ‘he’s our man.’ In a fit of boyish enthusiasm, he once described Third Sector as his bible.
Of course, he now has a much wider constituency and the huge challenge of trying to take the party beyond both Old and New Labour. Bigger policy questions will be on his mind, not least the economy and the deficit.
But an important part of opposing the government will be developing a cogent response to David Cameron’s big society agenda, which is closely bound to the role of the voluntary sector. We can count on the new leader to realise that and keep the needs of the sector in mind.
So perhaps the most important next step is for him to appoint a strong shadow civil society minister to start challenging Nick Hurd, who has had a pretty clear run so far. It’s time for proper opposition politics to begin again, not least in the sector’s affairs.