If this was The West Wing you might say that Ed Miliband has the Mo. Well maybe just the M, or perhaps half an M. Whatever you want to call it Ed is beginning to look a little more at home as leader, and the public are responding.
His slow and thoughtful approach to politics, which for the first year of his leadership was deemed a potentially fatal hindrance, now compares favourably to the lightweight Cameron. This bears out in the polls where, not only have Labour held a fairly consistent lead in the last few months, Miliband has overtaken Cameron in terms of popularity.
There is no doubt he has been helped by a Coalition seemingly intent on destroying itself – but he should be given some credit for this too. Better strategy has meant, bar a few shrill moments, he has been more decisive and effective in attack – not allowing Cameron to wriggle out of trouble as he so often did before.
Credit too should go to his frontbench team, particularly the power-duo that is Balls and Cooper. Balls cut Osborne’s austerity budget to shreds and made one of the Tory’s biggest assets look weak, out-of-touch and out of ideas. His unswerving message of growth and gentler passage out of deficit means Labour have earned the right to be listened to again. Cooper meanwhile has done the political equivalent of taking May out back and giving her a shoeing. Law and order was once a banker for Conservative ministers – not any more.
Six months ago the resignation of a shadow cabinet minister would have led to abject panic. Today we saw a confident Ed Miliband make a couple of minor tweaks plus the very smart promotion of John Cruddas – a guy liked and respected across the party, whether left or right, Blair or Brown. That he didn’t feel the need to replace Hain with another ‘big-beast’ shows just how far he has come.
There are still lots of challenges ahead – Labour fell just short of the magic 40% in the May elections. turnout was also worryingly though, ,waning that whilst the public don’t like Cameron and Co. they are yet to be convinced by Ed and his team. As Ed himself noted at the recent Progress conference, he and the rest of the party now have a job of work to do to engage all those registered voters who decided to stay at home. He also needs to start articulating a vision of a future Labour government in policy terms. The country is inclined to listen, so now is the time to start the conversation.
That said, it has been a long-time since Labour were in such a promising position and, like it not, it is Ed Miliband who has put us there. Slowly but surely he is coming good.