EdStone

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The "EdStone" was a large stone tablet which was commissioned by the Labour Party during the United Kingdom general election, 2015.[1] The stone was 2.6 metres (8 ft 6 in) tall and featured six election pledges carved into it, together with the Labour logo, and a copy of signature of the party leader Ed Miliband. It was much mocked; for example, John Rentoul, Tony Blair’s biographer, described it as the "most absurd, ugly, embarrassing, childish, silly, patronising, ridiculous gimmick I have ever seen".[2]

The Labour Party failed to declare the cost of the stone in its election finances report and was therefore fined by the Electoral Commission.[3]

Unveiling and reaction[edit]

The tablet was produced by stoneCIRCLE, a Basingstoke-based stonemasonry company; the firm signed a confidentiality clause.[4] It was rumoured to have cost £30,000,[5][6] but invoices later showed the cost was £7,614.[7][8]

The tablet was unveiled on 3 May 2015, in a car park in the marginal constituency of Hastings and Rye, which Labour hoped to take from the Conservative Party. The purpose of the stone was to illustrate Labour's commitment to its promises, contrasting this with the failure of the Liberal Democrats to keep their 2010 election campaign pledge to abolish tuition fees.

The six pledges written on the stone were:

  1. A strong economic foundation
  2. Higher living standards for working families
  3. An NHS with the time to care
  4. Controls on immigration
  5. A country where the next generation can do better than the last
  6. Homes to buy and action on rents

Miliband had pledged that if Labour won the election the stone was to have stood in the Downing Street Rose Garden "as a reminder of our duty to keep Labour's promises".[9][10]

The stone became a source of near universal ridicule.[11] It was unfavourably compared to the stone tablets in the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, and to a cemetery headstone. In a matter of hours Twitter users had declared it the "EdStone".[12]

Then Mayor of London Boris Johnson called it "some weird commie slab", whilst shadow transport minister Michael Dugher later admitted it was a "12ft, granite, marble, cock-up" – though the tablet was actually limestone.[13][14] Dan Hodges reported that while watching Miliband unveil the tablet on television, a Labour press officer "started screaming. He stood in the office, just screaming over and over again at the screen. It was so bad they thought he was having a breakdown".[15] A party adviser said after the election that "The only reason it got through 10 planning meetings was because we were all distracted, looking for a way to punch through on the SNP".[11] By the evening it had also been called the "heaviest suicide note in history", a reference to a famous description of Labour's unpopular 1983 manifesto, dubbed "the longest suicide note in history".[16]

Lucy Powell, the Labour campaign's vice-chair, was widely thought to have committed a gaffe about the stone, when she said on Radio 5 Live: "I don't think anyone is suggesting that the fact that he's carved them in stone means he's absolutely not going to break them or anything like that".[17] This was particularly damaging as the whole point of the stone had been to underline the seriousness of Miliband's commitment.

Election aftermath and location[edit]

When commissioning the tablet, the party decided that were it to lose the election, the stone would be destroyed. After the election—in which Labour performed worse than expected, and the Conservatives won a surprise overall majority—the location of the stone became the subject of widespread speculation.[11] Labour officials refused to disclose its location, for which various newspapers offered rewards. The Daily Telegraph contacted 50 masonry firms in an attempt to find it, whilst the Daily Mail offered a reward of a case of champagne for its location, and The Sun set up a hotline for information.[18]

The disappearance of the EdStone led to joking comparisons in the media with the Ark of the Covenant as portrayed in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which the Ark is stored in secret in a large warehouse, its location undisclosed.[19]

The seat in which the stone was unveiled, Hastings and Rye, was held by the Conservatives, whose MP Amber Rudd increased her majority to 4,796, up 5.4%.

As of 15 May 2015 the EdStone was allegedly in storage inside a garage in South London.[14] The party reportedly had two plans for its break-up and destruction: Throw the rubble away, or sell Berlin Wall-like chunks to party members to raise money. "There are claims it has been destroyed", The Guardian reported in early June 2015, "but even Miliband's close advisers cannot confirm its fate."[11] In January 2016 two party officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg News that the stone had been destroyed in the weeks following 7 May 2015, putting an end to eight months of speculation about its whereabouts.[20][21]

In May 2017, it was revealed that the EdStone had become a decoration in the Ivy Chelsea Garden restaurant on King's Road in West London. The restaurant's owners said that it had been bought two years earlier in a charity auction because it would be "fun" to have an "iconic image of the election" in the garden. Steve Vanhinsbergh, co-owner of stoneCIRCLE doubted this was the authentic stone, for practical reasons and the fact that he was "99% sure" it had been demolished.[22]

Initial enquiries aimed to determine why spending incurred on the stone tablet was missing from the Labour Party's campaign spending return. It was established that these payments, totalling £7,614, were missing from the party’s return and the Electoral Commission launched an investigation which uncovered other undeclared expenses. The Commission concluded that the party’s spending return was incomplete, as it omitted 74 payments totalling £123,748, along with 33 separate invoices totalling £34,392. The registered treasurer of the party, Iain McNicol committed two offences under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and the Labour party was fined £20,000. At the time, this was the largest fine the Commission has imposed since it began operations in 2001.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ P. Cowley; D. Kavanagh (14 July 2016). The British General Election of 2015. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 195–6. ISBN 978-1-137-36611-5. 
  2. ^ "John Rentoul on Twitter". Retrieved 30 May 2017. 
  3. ^ a b "Electoral Commission concludes investigation into Labour Party's 2015 General Election spending". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "stoneCIRCLE produced Ed Miliband's election pledge stone". Basingstoke Gazette. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  5. ^ Elgot, Jessica (10 May 2015). "Where is the 'Ed Stone'? Tabloid hunt for Miliband tablet". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  6. ^ Sawer, Patrick (16 May 2015). "Labour's 'Ed Stone' found hidden at an industrial estate called Westminster". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "Labour fined over 'Ed Stone' general election costs". BBC News Online. 25 October 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  8. ^ Allen, Kate (25 October 2016). "Miliband's 'Edstone' turns into a £20,000 grave error for Labour". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  9. ^ "Ed Miliband promises to install huge rock slab in Downing Street garden", The Metro
  10. ^ "Ed Miliband's lost 'Ed Stone' up for tabloid reward for those who can locate it’", The Independent, London, 11 May 2015. Retrieved on 13 May 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d Wintour, Patrick (3 June 2015). "The undoing of Ed Miliband – and how Labour lost the election". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Iain Watson (20 September 2015). Five Million Conversations: How Labour lost and election and rediscovered its roots. Luath Press Ltd. pp. 194–5. ISBN 978-1-910324-59-2. 
  13. ^ McTague, Tom; Chorley, Matt (5 May 2015). "Miliband defends Labour's stone tablets after being ridiculed for 'acting like Moses' over 8ft manifesto monument for Number 10". Mail Online. Retrieved 2016-10-25. 
  14. ^ a b "The Ed Stone's fate: resting in peace in a south London garage ", The Guardian, London, 13 May 2015. Retrieved on 13 May 2015.
  15. ^ Hodges, Dan (16 May 2015). "Did Ed Miliband sacrifice Ed Balls?". The Spectator. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Holehouse, Matthew; Rothwell, James. "Ed Miliband's manifesto monolith 'is a Kinnock moment'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2016. 
  17. ^ "Lucy Powell says promises on Labour's 8ft 'Edstone' may be broken". "Spectator". 5 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "British Press on the Hunt for Labour Leader’s Missing ‘Ed Stone’", The New York Times, London, 12 May 2015. Retrieved on 13 May 2015.
  19. ^ Dan Bloom (16 May 2015). "Has EdStone finally been found? Ed Miliband's 8ft pledge plinth 'discovered in bleak London warehouse'". mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  20. ^ RobDotHutton, Robert Hutton (2016-01-21). "The Mystery of Labour's Two-Ton U.K. Election Debacle Solved". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2016-10-25. 
  21. ^ Perraudin, Frances (2016-01-21). "'Ed Stone' was destroyed shortly after general election". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-10-25. 
  22. ^ "Ben Fogle says he found infamous Ed Stone at upmarket restaurant in London". Telegraph. 11 May 2017. Retrieved 11 May 2017.