Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is Ed’s leadership doomed to fail?

As readers and communicants will know, His Grace is a fully paid up member of (it’s free) and Hon. Chaplain to DUEMA, and so prohibited by its founding charter from doing anything which may imperil the status and standing of HM Leader of the Opposition the Rt Hon Edward Miliband MP. So here’s a guest post by Zach Johnstone:

You won’t hear too many Labour MPs saying so, but this was the week that was supposed to revive Ed Miliband’s ailing leadership fortunes. With a negative poll rating that presently sits somewhere between that of Ian Duncan Smith and Michael Howard at similar junctures in their inauspicious leaderships, the party desperately required a red letter day (in fact, a whole series of them) in order to ensure its continued relevance in the domestic political landscape, particularly with both the local and mayoral elections now just four months away.

For Ed, the backdrop to success is the ‘battle of ideas’. Without the power to effect change directly, he has spoken on numerous occasions of the need for Labour to project itself as the party pioneering solutions to the country’s ills; in other words, he wants his party to provide a credible alternative to the Coalition and to act like a government-in-waiting. His vision is a Labour Party forcing the political agenda through an awareness of the issues that really matter to voters; with this in mind, Ed embarked upon a series of public appearances in recent days in order to set out his stall and attempt to gain traction with an electorate that has, until now, shown little faith in his credentials for the highest office in the land. Having conducted several interviews with various national newspapers in order to convey his ‘human side’, all that was left was to flesh out his policy initiatives and wait for his fortunes to change.

As it transpires, it was all for nothing. Despite his considerable efforts the latest polling data from YouGov suggests that throughout the past week Labour has actually lost ground, dropping two percentage points. A series of meticulously-planned speeches and television interviews intended to propel Miliband to the fore of the news agenda managed only to reinforce the perception that the Labour leader is hopelessly vacillating. Worryingly for the stability of the party, Cameron’s accusation of “flip-flopping” at Prime Minister’s Questions was met with little more than an agitated murmur by the Labour backbenchers, perhaps redolent of a growing consensus amongst the party’s parliamentary members that Ed is not the man to lead them to electoral victory in 2015.

Frustratingly for Mr Miliband, it is difficult to see what he should be doing differently. The issues upon which he has chosen to focus – notably bank bonuses, executive pay and exorbitant energy bills – are precisely the things that many people expect their politicians to be tackling. He was not the first, as he speciously asserts, to decry crony capitalism, but he has certainly led the way in forcing the subject up the political agenda. He played his part in persuading energy companies such as EDF to cut their bills by as much as 5% this week, and he has ensured that the bonus of the Chief Executive of the publicly-owned Royal Bank of Scotland, Stephen Hester, is receiving appropriate scrutiny. In fact, by and large, Ed has been pushing the very issues that should be drawing Labour’s core voters (and swing voters, for that matter) out in their droves.

So why, if he is talking about the right things, is he failing to attract supporters?

Certainly, part of Miliband’s problem is the distinct lack of clarity on offer, especially with regard to the economy. His assertion that his party presently opposes the Coalition’s economic trajectory but that it cannot pledge to reverse cuts to public services in three-and-a-half years’ time is, given the continually changing nature of the economy, eminently rational, yet his failure to articulate this view with sufficient intelligibility has led to accusations of vagueness. His interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday was, at times, painful for this very reason, as was Harriet Harman’s similarly ungainly appearance on the Daily Politics. But vagueness is not, in itself, enough to keep a credible candidate or party down, as aptly demonstrated by Mitt Romney’s success in the Republican nominations in spite of his refusal to publish his tax returns.

Where Miliband is concerned there seems to be more at play than political strategy.

Take the differing fortunes of the two main parties when pursuing the same tactic. In the run-up to the 2010 general election David Cameron determined that in order to attract voters, the Conservative Party stood to gain more by explaining the harsh economic reality to the electorate and, paradoxically, setting out an austere vision for the next five years. Where electoral convention dictates that candidates must don rose-tinted glasses and espouse a rhetoric replete with optimism, Cameron and his colleagues readily admitted that a Conservative administration would cut public expenditure to such an extent that the United Kingdom’s entire structural deficit would be eliminated by 2015, a frankness that was rewarded (more or less) by the electorate. However as Ed Miliband sought to display similar candour this week by refusing to commit to increased public spending without knowing where the money would come from, he was met with a torrent of abuse. This was led by Unite leader Len McCluskey who, in a characteristically ignorant tirade, criticised Ed’s guarded approach (clearly the only way to placate the Labour Left is to commit to unbridled increases in public spending irrespective of the size of the national deficit). When Miliband attempted the Cameron approach, integrity and a desire to be honest counted for nothing.

So having established that the substance is more or less there, and that ambiguity isn’t terminal, we come to the crux of the matter: the harsh reality for Miliband is that this is about image.

Just as significant as saying the right things is how you look and sound when you do so. Whether it is the slightly nasal voice, his irrepressible blinking or his lack of charisma, Miliband does not look prime ministerial. It was, of course, rather uncouth of John Humphrys to ‘pose this point’ to Miliband in quite so forthright a manner as he did, but it rather reaffirms the point. Rightly or wrongly, it seems to play on people’s minds to a greater extent, even, than the carefully thought-out policy initiatives that Miliband is entreating people to support. It is a galling thought for the Labour leader, for if his problems are rooted in such unalterable factors then it is difficult to see what he can do to reverse his own – and his party’s - fortunes. The Labour Party may have to consider the prospect that with Ed at the helm, anything other than five more years in opposition seems greatly optimistic.

In a speech on responsible capitalism delivered on Thursday, Ed ‘encouraged’ prospective voters to judge the Government ‘on their deeds and not on their words’. To be judged on his words would, at this stage, represent a welcome reprieve for Mr Miliband.


Blogger G. Tingey said...

Private Eye calls him "Mr Milibean"
And shows him as the incompetent bumbler that he is.
Terribly sad, isn't it?

25 January 2012 at 08:33  
Blogger Larks Tongues in Aspic said...

He certainly has an image problem: but it goes deeper than that. He also wants to say two contradictory things at the same time. He both does and doesn't support the cuts; and as such he has no credibility whatever, whichever side of that debate you are on.

25 January 2012 at 08:46  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

'Cracking cheese Grommitt lad!'

25 January 2012 at 09:25  
Blogger Zach Johnstone said...

Larks Tongues in Aspic,

That's not quite accurate. He doesn't support the cuts but, equally, he can't commit to reversing them upon taking office. Those two lines of argument are not opposing; in fact, as I argue, it is quite a rational stance to take.

If he were to promise a sweeping retrenchment he would invariably be criticised for misleading the public.

His folly was to allow people to think that he was saying two contradictory things. It was his lack of clarity, not his duplicity, that generated such a negative reaction towards him.

25 January 2012 at 09:56  
Blogger non mouse said...

One thing ...he's a great representative of the euSSR whence he hails. If people will just see that's what he is.

Anway, lovely pics. Your Grace. For the first, I've been trying to figure out whether the thing behind his head is an ameoba gorging on his one brain cell; maybe, instead, it's a map of the escape route for that cell.

25 January 2012 at 10:03  
Blogger peedeel said...

Mr Elasticband aside, who would not go out of their way to vote for a party with that nice Mr Balls in it? The polls are obviously at fault. With these two at the helm, the Labour party will romp home at the next election...

Incidentally, has anyone noted the similarity between Mr Balls, and the photo of the Titanic’s first mate? The resemblance is uncanny. They could be mistaken for twins...

25 January 2012 at 10:07  
Blogger Larks Tongues in Aspic said...

Zac, perhaps they aren't contradictory and perhaps I am being naive, but to my mind if you are convinced something is wrong, then if you have the power to change it you do so. Saying something is wrong but you wouldn't change it is just a cop out.

25 January 2012 at 10:24  
Blogger Steve said...

I think Ed's main handicap is that the electorate can't forget how he got the leadership in the first place - they know he's there because the unions outvoted the MPs and the membership to get him in - and that's a complete turn-off for the kind of floating voters who gave Tony Blair such big majorities. It'll take a lot, and a lot of time, to live that down.

Actually I've seen it suggested that Ed's only way out is to pick, and to be seen to pick, a fight with the unions and their leaders; what does anyone think about that?

25 January 2012 at 10:33  
Blogger bluedog said...

So who's next, brother David?

25 January 2012 at 10:42  
Blogger David B said...

It's hard to see how he can live down snippets like

David B

25 January 2012 at 11:34  
Blogger Collingwood said...

I seem to remember that Maggie had to undergo some form of "coaching" on her spoken delivery and her image. More recently, when TV cameras were first allowed into the Commons, frontbenchers were given advice on how to present themselves to the television audience.
Following the Leaders' debate it could be argued that image and presentation (rather than substance) got Nick his shot at the big time.
I don't think any amount of coaching or presentation advice could now save Ed, the damage is done and his credibility as a potential leader is shot....
Fairly sad that media image is such a force in politics.

25 January 2012 at 12:03  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Your Grace;
Ed’s leadership is certainly bound to fail, Zach said it all. If he says the right thing but in the wrong way, who will listen?
I am minded of the 1992 Election with Major and Kinnock. With God involved, there is no telling what might happen. You will recall that the polls indicated a massive swing to Kinnock and Labour. The voters it seems did not want Major.
I was fortunate to have known Arch Bishop Benson Idahosa from Nigeria and just a few days before the election he prophesied that Kinnock would never be Prime Minister of Great Britain. We all felt this can’t be true but I had known him to be true about other prophecies. On the day of the election the polls still indicated Labour as the likely winner but the exit polls indicated something totally unexpected. Major and the Conservatives won against everyone’s expectations. Voters were asked about their actions and they explained that they had intended to vote Labour as they went in to the Poll but somehow they changed their mind before making their mark.
Major was a pretty useless sort of Guy but Kinnock was a firecracker about to be lit. He would have hopped about like a jumping jack. Just imagine the country led by an extreme unionist?

What has this to do with Miliband I hear you say? Ed is the extreme opposite of Kinnock, a shy retiring and feeble individual that, let’s say, God has allowed him to be there to keep the opposition in a state of subdued slumber. Not too much that he gets thrown out but enough to keep the Labour party from taking power.
My prayer is that he will make it to the end of term, to allow a party of Integrity to take office at the next election.

25 January 2012 at 12:27  
Blogger Larks Tongues in Aspic said...

Integrity? In a politician? Ha ha ha ha..very good.

25 January 2012 at 12:55  
Blogger indefatigable said...

I'm inclined to believe that the electorate will be a long time in finding forgiveness for the mess that Ed's beloved party left the country in. The lack of a clear way forward, either on paper or in verbal articulation is what is lacking. It's about who is most believable - sadly E Milliband is unbelievable.

25 January 2012 at 13:39  
Blogger Oswin said...

The Labour Party really doesn't much care; they don't want to re-gain office at the next election; why would they?

25 January 2012 at 15:19  
Blogger Berserker said...

Oswin said: The Labour Party really doesn't much care; they don't want to re-gain office at the next election; why would they?

He could be right. Why have the hassle of government when you can sit back and enjoy yourself without responsibility. Have that nice 75% taxpayer subsidised meal at the H of C restaurant. Even then the buggers complain about dismal lighting and dried up fishcakes. In the many bars, wine at £2.50 a glass and I bet its a nice brimful sizeable container of plonk. A very generous regular final salary pension scheme that ups by over 3% a year. A gym (though looking closely at the generally well upholstered bunch - I wonder who uses it?) a library, a government car service pool etc.

By all the Eds' mate, we don't want the hell of actually running the Country. I mean look what happened to Blair and Brown.

25 January 2012 at 16:04  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Zach. Ed doesn’t cut it with the ladies. They can spot a ‘wrong un’ a mile off. It’s why when a woman brings in a new born, all the other women flock to it to check it out. Make sure it’s normal. True that…

Also, that Treasury note left by Labour There’s nothing left, it’s all gone is just what the floating voter needs to know before making their mind up.

Toodle pip

25 January 2012 at 16:56  
Blogger Dodo the Renatus Dude said...

Mr Cranmer asked ...

What leadership?

Besides, as a Christian I was always taught it is wrong to make fun of the infirm or incapacitated.

Nuff said ....

25 January 2012 at 20:36  
Blogger Dodo the Renatus Dude said...

Ooops, missed out Mr Cranmer's question!!

Is Ed’s leadership doomed to fail?

As I queried: What leadership?

25 January 2012 at 20:38  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

He can babble like a brook and does, nobody is really listening now as Liebore have zero credibility. But, when the election draws nearer that is the time to be prepared for him to stab you in the back and win the race. I think the unions have far too much control and power, this needs to be curtailed.

Of course IF the Conservatives got us out of the Eussr, immigration under control and the soldiers home from Afghanistan, that would make you the most popular party in the country for a long while.

Oh! and get the travel infrastructures HS2, “Boris Island” airport and the new Britannia on the go. You can't afford to dither for 20 years before anything is done. There are so many really good things you can do, don't let the Labour negativity machine smother all creativity that's how they managed to almost sink the country.

26 January 2012 at 02:54  
Blogger Tentacles said...

"When Miliband attempted the Cameron approach, integrity and a desire to be honest counted for nothing."

Thats because the entire population knows, in its very bones, that 'integrity' and 'honest' are not words that can be used in any context where Labour are concerned.

Not after 13 years of lies that led to war and the destruction of the British economy. Milliband is just the end result of a dishonest stitch-up by the Unions and, as such, will never be accepted as credible by anybody except the BBC and the fossilised class hags of the union movement.

26 January 2012 at 03:24  
Blogger Michele said...

Perhaps it may have escaped your notice, but there is a distinct rise in English nationalism in this country, and more and more people are asking the simple question 'Who speaks for England?'

Ed is the son of an immigrant that took refuge here, and who, many feel, never stopped abusing us for being English since the day he arrived.

It could be that the English are looking for a politician who does speak for them, and they don't think that Ed Milliband is the man.

26 January 2012 at 06:32  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

Why bother with third rate council politics,and third rate council politicians,they do not administer this countries affairs,the eussr does,this mediocrity is simply a rothchild placeman,who only purpose is to inveigle our nation in israels wars,though the boy is doing just fine with that agenda already.nationalism is on the rise,simply because the indigenous population are sick of being up to thier arses in commies,who they did not elect,have no mandate,and are determined that we shall all be queer by the end of the decade.

26 January 2012 at 09:25  
Blogger Manfarang said...

The Communists are doing rather well in China but Ed needs to do something Marxist-Leninist-grow a beard!

27 January 2012 at 22:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed while having amusement value(somewhat like Mr Bean)has not the gravitas to ever be a leader IMO anyone would wish to follow.

28 January 2012 at 08:38  

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