I was initially quite impressed by Ed Miliband’s first moves as the new Labour leader. He was right to quickly to dispatch Nick Brown from the job of Chief Whip and his “I know thee not, New Labour” conference speech was mostly in the right direction. But since then it seems to have gone downhill for Ed.
The view that Ed has got time and so he shouldn’t be in a hurry has some merit. Opposition politics, particularly at this early stage in the parliament, is a marathon not a sprint. So calm reflection and careful consideration of the next steps is better than rushing about attempting to answer every demand from his opposition or the media. What Jackie Ashley has called his “Zen socialism“.
Yet it seems he has gone too far in this direction and has left a vacuum where his leadership should be.
I thought appointing Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor was a mistake and lacked courage. I would have gone for Yvette Cooper myself. It seems wrong to criticise a new father for taking paternity leave, but I don’t see why he couldn’t have taken an hour or so out of each day to squash those members of his party who were using his absence to fly kites. Plus, the lack of a clear direction on a number of issues gives the, possibly quite false, impression of dithering.
Prime Minister’s Questions this week will not have helped.
The general consensus was that David Cameron spanked Miliband at PMQs. Watching it back yesterday I had to agree that he was truly awful. But I also couldn’t help having some sympathy for a politician having an awful time.
The screencap above, that I took from BBC iPlayer, of Miliband is not from the exchanges with the PM. It is Ed’s reaction to a later question when Richard Fuller was rude about him.
Richard Fuller, who he? Well, exactly.
Fuller is the Conservative MP for Bedford and he had described Miliband as an “economic novice”. For the leader of the opposition to wear such a pained expression in response to a weak jibe from a relatively obscure Tory backbencher is I think a measure of just how bad a time he is having. He should have been able to just shrug it off.
The current rumblings about the future of Ed Miliband’s leadership are mostly just froth. It is not serious. Yet. But I am a member of the Liberal Democrats who lived through the period of Ming Campbell’s leadership and saw how the, mostly unfair, froth that was thrown at him gained such momentum that it ultimately did for his leadership. So Miliband does need to get a better grip.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.