2014 election focus: We need to talk about Ed

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May 28, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

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I would like to talk about where the Labour Party go from here but I can’t, because first we need to talk about Ed Miliband.

We need to talk about Ed because many Labour activists reported that their conversations on the the doorstep in the run up to the local and EU elections weren’t about how people felt about the Coalition government or about policy ideas, they were about how weird Ed tended to come across, how little he connected with real people and how un-Prime Ministerial he seems (I challenge you to watch him speak and imagine feeling reassured if he was talking to the nation after a terrorist attack)

We need to talk about Ed because what people think about his leadership style is getting in the way of some deep and clever thinking on policies, including some workable idea on making the rental market fairer and a determination to lift the minimum wage up to an amount which makes it worthwhile.

We need to talk about Ed because we have had four years of coalition government pursuing controversial austerity policies that have upset many people, with Labour being the only opposition party, giving them a free ride at coming up with alternatives, yet there they were during the recent EU elections only just beating the conservatives because they have an edge in London and in the local council elections picking up nothing like the number of seats they should have done at this point.

We need to talk about Ed because the Labour party’s campaign for these elections has been lacklustre to say the least. It almost feels like they ‘threw’ the EU elections, because they are simply unable to agree on a line to take on Europe, not really offering a referendum, not really coming out in support of the EU either. This is partly due to there being some serious splits within the Party over Europe, given its effect on what they still regard as their core working class vote. But where was the leadership on the issue? As for the local council elections, most of their campaign was highlighting national issues rather than local ones. I found the timing of their announcements on renting policy and minimum wage to be strange as neither were relevant to the upcoming elections. They did win Hammersmith & Fulham council, which was quite a coup (although it was a win based around a lie that the Tory council was closing a local hospital), but they didn’t make the gains in the south they should have done at this stage of an electoral cycle.

We need to talk about Ed because part of the reason Labour didn’t do so well in the south was because of the rise of UKIP, particularly in places like Thurrock in Essex. Having relaxed in their comfort zone of pretending that UKIP’s vote consisted of disgruntled old white Tories (‘old white men barking at the moon at their loss of power’ as someone put it two years ago), they now have to come to terms that what was supposed to be the core vote of Labour, the working class, were drifting away to UKIP. Again, they may try and comfort themselves that once those working class voters ‘understood’ how Labour’s policies would help them and that they didn’t need UKIP there won’t be a problem. The question is, can Ed, middle class policy wonk with no experience of working outside Westminster, help them to understand?

Well, We need to talk about Ed because this was his answer to a question asked of him in Thurrock during the aftermath of the EU elections when a journalist pointed out that some voters think he is too academic and wordy so could he sum up what he is about in one word:

“One Nation. One Nation is an idea about how you bring every person in the country to make a contribution and show their potential. And that’s what I’m about. And that’s what I’m about for Britain. And I think it shows that Labour is a party that is reaching out to people across our country and that Labour has an answer. And in the end, the question is does that country succeed with people at the top doing well? Or does it succeed when actually ordinary people are supported? And that is the big question for Britain. And actually I believe that will be the big question for Britain at the next election.”

We need to talk about Ed because the big question for Britain at the next election will actually be whether Ed Miliband would make a credible Prime Minister.

My personal opinion is that he has done very little wrong over the last four years in his role as Leader of the opposition. I can see he is thinking deeply about the policies he wants to go to the country with next year, and that he genuinely wants to help people. He would make an excellent cabinet minister in a future government…and I’m afraid I have to leave it there.

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