Mr Ed

Hi, kids!

Ed Miliband has spent his leadership campaign posing as the trendy supply teacher – all informal authority and ideas attractive but somehow received, for which he has a great deal of enthusiasm but possibly not the skill to implement. Having given the supply teacher a permanent contract, Labour now get to see whether he’s as good at the daily grind as he is at letting the kids off the toughest homework; even more so, the awkward kid at the back of the room who was most keen on the teacher can now expect a bit of discipline from Mr M, just to show who’s now boss.

That awkward kid, of course, represents the unions, whose members gave Miliband the leadership on the waferiest of wafer-thin majorities – 50.65 to 49.75. The post-1980 federal electoral college has delivered tight results like this before (think Healey-Benn), but never has it seen a victorious candidate lose both the MPs and party members. This makes the job of my party’s new leader more difficult than it might have been – his enemies will have a ready-made line of attack, however disingenuous, and in the coming years a potentially arid dividing line between cutters and cutted must be avoided.

Not, you’ll understand, that a member who voted for Ed Balls would accuse Ed Miliband of being too left-wing – if anything, quite the opposite. Miliband’s conversion to cuddly leftism hasn’t quite convinced me, as long-term readers will know, and what Roy Hattersley is calling the new leader’s “gentle and joyous philosophy” will require a good deal more grit if it is to carry a general election. Matthew D’ancona trots out all the emerging right-wing talking points in his latest column, but is on to something when he casts the Leader of the Opposition as a preacher rather than a persuader.

Another always astute commentator, Steve Richards, this week fingered Vince Cable, who had a fairly disastrous joint appearance with John Redwood on Question Time this week (followed, on Friday, by a ranty Chris Huhne on Any Questions), as the Coalition’s cover man par excellence. Labour’s job must be to have no truck with empty leftie populism, but to espouse certain and credible alternatives to the true programme of the government. Ed Miliband spoke a lot about making Labour a movement again. This requires uniting and providing practical purpose to the party, and that would go a long way to capitalising on the clear lack of public enthusiasm for the Coalition’s direction of travel. Maybe the party, which predates my membership by some considerable distance, knows better than I do after all …

8 thoughts on “Mr Ed

  1. I don’t see the IDS comparison, I must say. IDS was a Tory attempt to go with ‘age’ and ‘experience’ and ‘an alternative to the politics of snipe and aggression.’ ‘The Quiet Man’ and all that. Catastrophic, of course, but you could see what they were thinking. Ed, though, is all ‘Labour: the Next Generation’ … young enough to escape the taint of New Labour, nerdy yes but Bright Young Thing nerdy.

    I was thinking, though, as I listened to him on the Today programme, that this is undermined by the fact that (on radio, at least) he sounds not like Tony Blair exactly, but like an impressionist doing Tony Blair.

  2. Obviously, I think they’ve picked the wrong leader. Not as catastophic as IDM, I’d agree that he’s more of a William Hague.

    The thing I really don’t get, and have always been quite baffled by, is when the likes of Kinnock make him out as some hugely inspirational orator with the uncanny ability to connect, Medhi Hasan sang a simlilar melody on radio yesterday… I just don’t see it! I truly think that Mr Ed is dinstinctly average. Maybe he’ll do well in the short term (but I think this will come from the unpopularity of cuts rather than Ed’s, supposed, comunication skills) but when it comes to selling himself as a potential Prime Minister, I remain unconvinced.

  3. Mr C – Ed’s inaugural speech felt rather Cleggish in some aspects to me, did that make you feel warmer and fuzzier towards him? I agree, though, that this ‘great communicator’ stuff bears no relation to how I experience him as a speaker – I find him rather forgettable, even at times perfunctory.

    Having said that, the content of the speech struck me as well balanced – every rhetorical action seemed to have an opposite and equal reaction, which may mean the speech simply defied positioning by others rather than actively positioning his leadership, but if that is true we might forgive that in an inaugural speech. But if Ed cannot deliver either specifics nor his brother, one rather wonders what it is Labour has gained other than that blank slate (and a sub-par impressionist).

  4. I’m just glad to see the back of “new” labour and all the toadies like his brother – who refused to put his head above the parapet whenever there was controversey within the party. While I can’t see Ed as PM yet, I hope he grows into the potential for it. PMQs will be the test of course – rather him than me

  5. This is one of the most interesting things about Ed M, though, Tom – he has been at the heart of the New Labour project since the beginning, and only his age prevented him from taking as frontline a position as his brother as quickly. Ed M was sitting in the Treasury whilst the decision to go to war with Iraq was being made; Ed Balls, who worked closely with him under Gordon Brown, remembers nary a peep from him, so we’re told. David, on the other hand, was one of the few Cabinet ministers to oppose Tony Blair on the war in Lebanon.

    So it may not be as simple as you think – but it’s a good sign for Ed’s future growth that he has been able so fully to define the terms in which he is seen.

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