Congratulation to Ed Miliband and his partner Justine, who were married today. Or as the Mail put it ‘finally found the time to wed the mother of his two children’. Ed’s leadership has taken something of a beating in the media and in Westminster circles, especially since the local and devolved election results. Today, however, I’m writing in support of Ed’s leadership, at least to an extent.
I must first admit Ed was not my first choice for the leadership job, I supported Andy Burnham and I still believe we would have performed far better under his leadership in the local elections. Burnham recognised in his leadership campaign that the London-centric approach of the Party has led to a significant and dangerous degeneration of CLP’s outside the major cities, where it is far harder to maintain a vibrant and involving political atmosphere. Far more needs to be done to encourage and support Labour members across Britain to become active and encourage others to be active. That’s another story.
As most now (finally) recognise, the leadership have failed to land any convincing blows on Cameron and his Tories, who have happily taunted like John Cleese’s frenchman in The Holy Grail from behind their Lib Dem flavoured Star Wars defence system. The shadow cabinet need to find a way to puncture this insulating Chris Huhne balloon, and to capitalise on the evident chaos within the coalition. They’ve had more gaffes in the last few months than we managed in the entire Brown premiership. That is a role for the shadow cabinet, especially in the areas where they clearly have far more competence than their opposite numbers. Think Balls v Osborne, Cooper v May, Burnham v Gove.
Ed, on the other hand, should keep doing what he’s doing. His leadership style has been characterised by his honesty, forthrightness, clarity and lack of showmanship. Polling has supported the idea that Ed is developing a reputation for honesty, when he talks people feel they can trust him. PMQ’s has been the best expression of this. Faced with a public school bully, short on facts, ideas, or manners, Ed has done his job, representing the opposition to scrutinise and criticise the coalition, without resorting the ad hominum attacks that the public hate.
I hope it stays that way, despite advisors worrying about the polls. It may not be good for the party right now, but it’s good for politics. The personal vitriol that the media thrives on goes a long way to alienating people from the bunch of middle class rich boys squabbling in a big palace. It may take some time for the media to adjust, but I hope Ed sticks to his guns. I accept this must be balanced with a strategy across the shadow cabinet to beat the coalition and Ed will need to improve to show he can beat the Tories as well as win our trust.
He should talk about how the coalition are hurting ordinary people, and outline a Labour vision for the future, but deal with issues and policy, not with personalities. The public will thank him for it.