How Miliband seals the deal

by Jonathan Todd

“The Labour leader’s main problem,” wrote Deborah Orr last November, “is that the dialogue he’s attempting to have with the nation is just too negative”. At the Labour spring rally, I worried that this weakness persisted. But tell that to the hen parties of Chester. Or the Milifans. Or even Peter Mandelson.

There is a positivity about Miliband, which the public have not previously known. But the Labour Party has. When, for example, in summer 2010, he drew the biggest crowd to a Labour meeting in Carlisle since the days of Harold Wilson.

If proving that we could be trusted again with other people’s money was the key lesson that you felt Labour ought to take from the last general election, then Miliband’s brother, David, may have then been a more attractive leadership candidate. While David was stronger on this front, he had other limitations. He appeared colder than Ed. The “Ed speaks human” placards may have never wholly convinced but Ed was a warm, even inspirational figure, at least to those holding the placards, during the leadership election.

This Miliband has been submerged for four and a half years and only reappeared in the past fortnight, perversely assisted by a Tory campaign that lowered expectations about him. They told the country that Miliband is useless, he’s shown otherwise. They told the country that the economy is improving, for many what they see around them suggests not. They should have shown us their core strengths of leadership and economy, instead of telling a sceptical public to be grateful.

In turning derision to cheers, Miliband resembles Tim Sherwood, manager of Aston Villa, supposedly David Cameron’s team, while – and, as a Liverpool fan, it grieves me to say – Cameron has something of the Brendan Rodgers about him, at least insofar as, as was demonstrated in defeat by Villa in the FA Cup semi-final, a capacity to squander advantages, possibly induced by nervousness or over-thinking.

Introducing Mario Balotelli at half-time in that semi-final, perhaps, betrayed Rodgers’ nerves, while using this switch to make a third formation change in 45 minutes also demonstrated a capacity for over-thinking. The Villa tactics were more straight forward but applied with greater conviction.

James Forsyth reports that, “according to one of those who knows (Cameron) best, part of the problem is actually how nervous he is about losing. This fear is constraining his performances”. There was something constrained about Liverpool’s semi-final performance and arguably nervousness about their manager’s decision making. Sherwood and his players, in contrast, betrayed no doubts. Miliband, similarly, appears certain that he is destined to mould a new Britain and the Labour foot soldiers working toward this outnumber Tories working for whatever it is that Cameron offers.

Sherwood might not, though, win the cup. Janan Ganesh’s red and white army of Arsenal await. Miliband may not be prime minister either. The quiet moments of economic assessment might favour the incumbents. Fears surrounding the SNP, whose support Miliband may require in government, could also be a barrier to PM Miliband. But Miliband, like Sherwood, is closer to achieving his goal than many thought likely.

The Conservatives, Ganesh recently observed, “cannot escape the noxious reputation that began to form in the 1980s, calcified in the 1990s, softened promisingly under Mr Cameron in the last decade, and hardened again in this one”. Not least given Scottish polling, Labour should not be complacent about our reputation. But it probably remains healthier than the Conservative reputation.

As well as favourable boundaries, the block defection to Labour of many 2010 Liberal Democrat voters, and a greater number of potential routes to coalition or durable minority government, particularly as a consequence of the SNP turning like flint against the Tories, Labour’s reputational edge over the Conservatives is a hardwired advantage to Miliband over Cameron.

Trash-talk about Tories is unnecessary to augment this well-established reputational strength and risks slipping back to the negativity that Orr warned against. Bad mouthing Nick Clegg would also potentially close-off valuable post-election options.

Miliband should remain positive. But reassuring. Recent analysis by the IFS and Oxford Economics undermines the Conservative charge that he is a greater threat to economic recovery than they are. Miliband’s spinners will earn their suppers by bringing these conclusions down from the ivory towers and placing them on kitchen tables.

They are assisted by HSBC being clear that it is not the policies of Miliband that pose the greatest risk of them relocating their HQ out of the UK. As quarterly GDP figures are invariably less positive than annual figures, Labour can also anticipate making hay with those announced on Tuesday.

The SNP persist, though, as the elephant in the room. But YouGov indicate that some voters may have tired of the elephant. Miliband’s positive reassurance should, therefore, focus on gently inserting himself into the quiet moments of economic assessment, rather than grappling the elephant.

A team containing Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho should beat Villa. Cameron’s leads over Miliband on leadership and economy should secure victory. But the launching of long balls to Balotelli indicated that Sherwood had succeeded in nullifying Sterling and Coutinho. Tory attempts to fuse Labour and the SNP reveal also Miliband making decisive ground on leadership and economy. He should keep speaking human. It is being heard anew.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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3 Responses to “How Miliband seals the deal”

  1. swatantra says:

    There can be absolutely no doubt that EdM seems to have found his form in the closing stages of the Election, but is it too late? Buoyed by Opinion Polls predicting that Labour are likely to be the largest Party and likely to form a coalition.
    All 3 leaders necks are on the line and whichever Party loses will have a new Leader by Sept’s Annual Conferences.

  2. paul barker says:

    This strikes me as Hubris, you havent won yet.

  3. John P Reid says:

    The policy announcement on banning Islamaphoiba, which will only undermine free speech ,is ridiculous

    We have a right to offend as long as it’s not libelous, obscene or incites violence,We shouldn’t care if people are offended and never will

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