Why Ed Milibland is quite ridiculous

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 1 April 2011 in Diary
He accuses a coalition of division, compares a rally against cuts with the South African anti apartheid movement and is the most unpopular party leader in Britain – Martin Shapland asks – what is the point of Ed Miliband?

It could just be me, but while David Cameron revealed during PMQs that he finds Ed Balls the most annoying MP in politics, I personally find Ed Miliband quite ridiculous.

Perhaps it’s because he looks a bit awkward? While he seems nice enough, in reality he has all the dynamism of a broken action man doll.

He claims he is the voice of Middle Britain, and that the government’s austerity measures are too fast and too deep. Yet despite the cuts, Labour’s poll rating is barely ahead of the Tories and consistently behind the coalition parties combined – by his logic he should have a lead in the double digits. He doesn’t.

The problem is I can’t take him or his party seriously, whether it's Ed’s Rubik's cube, Balls claiming there was no structural deficit or Tom Baldwin, Miliband's spin doctor, trying to force the media to call the coalition the ‘Conservative-led government’. Everything Labour says and does at the moment has an air of ridicule.

Maybe it’s his narrative? He does have an instinct for the hyperbolic, comparing with all seriousness, a rally against taking public spending back to 2007 levels to the great movements seeking to give women the vote, end apartheid in South Africa and give black people civil rights in America. I’m sure he believes they are completely the same thing.

Perhaps he’s simply unlucky? A few weeks ago Miliband told Nick Clegg to ‘lie low’ on the basis that he was too unpopular to help win a Yes vote in the referendum. Then two days later an Ipsos Mori poll found that Mr Miliband was in fact less popular than Clegg.

While that’s fairly unlucky he later accused the two parties sharing power of peddling the politics of division. That’s not unlucky, that’s intellectually dishonest - if you multiply divisions you get back to where you started.

The work of a leader of the opposition is to make their party credible; a party which people can take seriously as a government-in-waiting. Sure he wins the odd by-election or two - Labour had a stonking majority in the Barnsley poll in March -but then, so did Michael Foot in 1983 with a suicide note as a manifesto. The point is Ed is not leading Labour anywhere near where they need to be to regain power.

Instead of building a credible policy platform he has a blank sheet of paper. Instead of atoning for Labour’s economic record he denies it.  Instead of building consensus within his party, his members, such as Luke Bozier on Labour List, openly admit they are ashamed by his rhetoric.  

There is open disquiet among Labour’s rank and file about Ed’s ability to do the job. Meanwhile waiting patiently in the wings is another Miliband, one with more gravitas and experience than Miliband junior could ever muster.

This Senior Miliband, the one his party wanted, the one Ed won’t have as best man at his wedding and the one whom Conservatives fear, could have gone to Washington to make big money on the lecture tour. Instead he’s lying low in Sunderland, perhaps waiting for the right time to re-emerge as Labours true prodigal son. That for Ed and the coalition, I fear, is the problem waiting to happen.

Tags: David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Labour Party, Nick Clegg

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