More bleak news for Ed Milibamd this morning as The Guardian splashes with a report from Shadow Minister and ‘leading Labour thinker’ Gregg McClymont stating Labour are at risk of falling into a Tory trap and losing the next election. The story itself is pretty lightweight, but the implication that Miliband Junior is following a core votes strategy is damaging, as is the fact the paper has now led with two anti-Miliband stories in three days. Once is careless, twice might be seen as some sort of conspiracy.
The tragic thing is, if you get the chance to listen to a set-piece speech from Ed you’ll soon realise that a core-votes strategy is the last-thing on his mind. He has a clear vision of what the post-banking crisis should look like. The need for a new approach to the economy and society, a more responsible capitalism. This isn’t just about bashing bankers, it is an opportunity to put fairness back at the heart of what we do. His problem? No-one is listening.
Eddites will tell you it is virtually impossible to get the public to listen so soon after defeat at the polls. I don’t buy it. The coalition is not the landslides of 79 or 97 and the public remain unconvinced of Cameron (though considering the year he has had, he should get some credit for the current polls). The public are looking about for an alternative, the trouble is they are not seeing anything they can buy into.
Appointing Tom Baldwin as Comms Director earlier this year certainly tightened up the messaging, helping to make the outfit more tactically adept and scoring a couple of small wins in the process. What he has been unable to do is develop a narrative. For this you need an underlying strategy, and if Ed and his team have one it seems to be very underlying indeed.
So, we enter 2012, with the polls in the same place as a year ago and the public still unaware of who Ed is and what he stands for (desperate Daily Mirror pieces aside), except now we are a year on, the party is getting restless and even the most benign of centre-left papers is beginning to turn against him. The next few months are a huge test for Ed and, in particular Tim Livesey, his new Chief of Staff. Can they develop a winning narrative that resonates with the public, and if so how quickly? The question is – is it already too late?