Mazaltov. But now time for Project Ed

By Martin Bright, November 11, 2010

Congratulations are due to Ed Miliband and his partner Justine Thornton on the birth of their second son. But as the Labour leader prepares for two weeks of paternity leave, Project Ed has begun in earnest.

Since he expressed his opposition to Israel's blockade of Gaza and the boarding of the Turkish flotilla during his leadership acceptance speech, Labour Friends of Israel have been working hard to mend fences.

In his interview with the JC last week, Mr Miliband made it clear that he condemns Hamas rocket attacks on civilian targets. This is a start.

Behind the scenes, key adviser Stewart Wood has been working tirelessly to forge connections with the Jewish Leadership Council.

Shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis has also been closely involved in this process. Mr Miliband has been persuaded that he needs to have dinner with senior left-leaning members of the JLC as soon as he returns to duty.

LFI are also set to meet the Labour leader before the winter recess. Mr Wood is himself a respected figure, who played a central role in Gordon Brown's Downing Street team and took a particular interest in universal jurisdiction, the law that allows magistrates to issue arrest warrants for Israeli politicians and military personnel accused of war crimes.

But Israel advocates within the Labour Party recognise they will no longer have the support they enjoyed under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The hope is, however, that they can moderate the influence of those within the party who would wish to question Israel's legitimacy.

One senior LFI staffer said: "With Ed, it will be a bit of a journey. At this stage we just want to make sure that when he makes his next speech, he uses balanced, diplomatic language when talking about Israel." Specifically, this means condemning Hamas and not remaining silent on Iran.

Last week's interview with the JC was seen as a step in the right direction. But there remain areas of concern, where he still has not made his position clear. Chief among these remains universal jurisdiction, on which he remains opaque.

Mr Miliband has said he will wait until the government presents its proposals on a change to the law before passing comment. Because the issue has the ability to split both Labour and the coalition, the judgment he makes will be a serious test of his leadership.

Last updated: 3:22pm, November 11 2010