Sure it's hilarious but you can't blame repetitious Ed

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 4 July 2011 in Diary
Ed Miliband's broken-record interview on the strikes was hilarious, but at least now everybody knows what he thinks. What could he really have done differently?

"Right Ed, we need a good soundbite for the 6 o'clock news, so whatever he asks you just say 'the strikes are wrong'."

So I tweeted last Thursday, shortly after LabourList had embedded and then started pushing the clip of Ed Miliband's broken-record interview about the public sector strikes with Damon Green.

Once the Labour-supporting blogosphere were talking about an embarrassing Ed interview, it was hardly going to take long before the right-wing commentariat had seized on the younger Miliband's woes, and soon the Westminster twitter village had a viral hit on its hands.

By the end of the week, the reporter left exasperated by repetitious Ed had blogged on his experience, and this morning lefty funnyman Charlie Brooker has added his own two-penneth in the Guardian. Well, if nothing else there are now few out there who don't know the Labour leader's stance on last Thursday's strikes.

And that, actually, is the point. Ed was in a no-win situation: shunted into power on the back of the unions, labelled 'Red Ed', and yet expected to return the Labour Party to the centre-ground of the Blair era. He only needed one line to be listened-to in that interview and he stuck to it. And speaking as a political PR (and one that has in the past worked with Boris Johnson) all I can say is - good work.

The subsequent wailing and gnashing of teeth from Green and Brooker, both of whom are trying to label this as a failure of the political system, is absurdly overblown. I have sat silently beside politicians delivering masterclasses of form and content on their chosen issue, of which the worst 10 seconds end up in the final edit. I have also sat next to politicians rigidly toeing the line of the day, only to mention what they’re doing after the interview, and that night we watch an MP eulogising about his dinner date end up as the clip used on Newsnight.

It’s the game and we’re all aware of it – PRs, politicians, reporters. What could Ed have done better? Well, he could have come up with different ways of giving the same answer. His handlers could have pre-negotiated the questions and come up with those answers. And Ed could have smiled sweetly after the first two questions and declared “that’s your lot”. But, as Brooker noted correctly, this situation is nothing new; politicians have been repeating a line ad nauseum since the TV news media began.

I guess the trick is not getting caught.

Dylan Sharpe is Head of Media Relations for the Countryside Alliance and former Head of Press on the NO to AV campaign

Tags: Charlie Brooker, Damon Green, Ed Miliband, Public sector strikes

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