Saturday, December 04, 2010

Labour don't do assassinations, but if they did....

When Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader on the opening day of the party's conference in Manchester in September, a leading Tory blogger delivered a withering verdict on the result.

"They’ve missed out Hague and gone straight to IDS," said Paul Staines, author of the Guido Fawkes blog which, while not exactly impartial in its coverage of the political scene, is not without influence at Westminster.

Staines was, so far as I am aware, the first political pundit to make the comparison between 'Red Ed' and the failed Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, but he certainly hasn't proved to be the last.

"It may be too early to start talking about Ed Miliband not making it to the next election as Labour leader, but many more performances at PMQs as poor as he put on today and it won’t be long before he’s in IDS territory," said another this week.

Wednesday's Prime Minister's questions should have been a breeze for Mr Miliband with the continuing three-way split in the Liberal Democrats over whether to vote for tuition fees, vote against them or abstain.

On top of that, he had the leaked critique by Bank of England governor Mervyn King describing Prime Minister David Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne as "out of their depth."

Yet Mr Miliband chose instead to base his attack on another leaked document in which William Hague had described himself, Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne as 'Thatcher's children.'

"I would rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown," the Prime Minister responded, ramming home the open goal to hoots of laughter from the government benches.

For Mr Miliband to attack the coalition for its Thatcherite tendencies was politically inept on so many levels it is hard to know where to start.

To begin with, Mrs Thatcher would not even have contemplated some of the things the coalition is doing, particularly in the area of welfare, so the comparison breaks down at the first hurdle.

But the real problem with referencing Margaret Thatcher in contemporary political debate is the wildly differing reactions she still elicits, even 20 years on from her downfall.

Labour's core voters may still regard her as the devil incarnate - but to many of the swing voters the party needs to win back, she was, and remains, a heroine.

Inevitably, the mounting discontent over Ed's slow start has led to continuing speculation that South Shields MP David Miliband might yet get a second shot at the leadership.

For my part, I can't see it. David may have deserved to get the job in September, but his brother's performance since then is in danger of trashing the entire Miliband brand.

It is simply inconceivable to my mind that, charged with finding another new leader at this stage, the party would replace a failed Miliband with….another Miliband.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Yvette Cooper, who should have stood for the job this time round, is surely in pole position to take over should the opportunity arise.

What will probably save Ed Miliband is that Labour doesn't really do leadership assassinations. They knew Michael Foot was going to lose badly in 1983, yet passed up the chance to put Denis Healey into the job instead.

They probably knew Gordon Brown was going to lose in 2010, but again, they failed to move decisively against him.

The big difference, though, between those two leaders and the current one is that while they, at least to begin with, could claim the support of their own MPs, Mr Miliband was foisted on his by the wider party.

And, of course, there was another recent party leader who found himself in exactly that position. His initials were IDS.

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Anonymous said...

If you think Red Ed is a bad choice wait till he really comes under scrutiny by the press.

The I'm a Socialist with my elaborate tax avoidance plans to protect my inherited fortune,gives a whole new meaning to the word oxymoron.

Anonymous said...

Your argument seems to be that Ed should be ditched as leader because he's had a few bad PMQs. This has to be nonsense.

It's four and a half years till a general election. Ed had kept the various factions of the party together and is level-pegging in the polls. This is not spectacular progress but hardly a disaster.