by Dan McCurry
Ed Miliband has never attended the Cenotaph in his donkey jacket, nor has he screamed from a podium, “Yeeeaaaar alright”. But the difference is that those leaders existed at a time when Labour was ungovernable, or they made Labour governable, and it took everything out of them. Ed, on the other hand, was gifted a benign set of circumstances, but has led us into decline.
If there is a plot against him, then I’d hardly be the first to know. But if there is, it won’t happen until May. With the London elections such a knife edge business, no one wants to rock the boat. This means one of two things: either Ed has the chance of being the turnaround kid, or the Labour party (on the national stage) is in for a lame duck period.
Maybe it is too late for Ed Miliband. I’m not ruling out a bolt from the blue that will reignite his leadership, but I think luck tends to hang out with those who have chutzpah. And if Cameron can be admired for one thing only, he knows how to brazen it out.
Nor am I saying that Ed has failed to develop as a leader. If he knew then what he knows now, he’d have been able to take the party where we need to go. But he hasn’t, and that’s the point. He hit the ground standing still, and told everyone that this was a strategy. He believed he was more vulnerable if he adopted a position, than if he didn’t, and that was a mistake.
When Cameron was getting radical with the big society and the abolition of gaol, Ed believed that the public is put off by confrontational politics, so stayed quiet. Since Cameron dumped the loony ideas, he has grown in stature. We’ll never have that opportunity again. It passed us by.
Yes, he took up hacking, but only after the Milly Dowler story broke. He was good on the riots, but so was Tony Travers when he said that the time for reflection will come later. Ed never quite burnt bright enough that he could avoid being extinguished by David Cameron in the veto PMQs. “What would you have done?” Cameron unfairly asked, and in that moment we all knew the earth had moved.
There’s a scene in a Simpson’s cartoon, where they have a car-chase past two political rallies, and the parties have truthful slogans on their hoardings. The Republican’s have, “We’re just plain mean”, while the Democrats have, “We can’t govern”. To me this represents the change of fortune for the two main UK parties. The Tories used to suffer from being labelled as “nasty”. We now suffer from being labelled as “nice”. People want a government that can take the difficult decisions.
The question is whether Ed is a big enough character that he can carry the party forward and overcome this? Sunny Hundal recently wrote well in comparing politicians with a big voice and those who seem to whisper. His point was that Ed tends to whisper.
If we are to have a new leader, then we don’t need to change course, we just need to have clarity on spending. It was always a mistake to believe we could benefit from attacking cuts across the board. We did well with the “too far, too fast” slogan, but didn’t go anywhere with it. A future leader needs to make the distinction between the Tories’ savage and indiscriminate cuts, compared to our intelligent and targeted cuts.
The Tories are considered tough, but not nice. We’re considered to be nice people, but a soft touch in difficult times. The people don’t hate us. They just decided it was time for a change. The question is whether they’ll think it time for a change in 2015? The leader we need is the one who makes that decision for them.
Dan McCurry is a Labour activist whose photographic and film blog is here.