The national media appears to be obsessed with Ed Miliband in a way that they haven’t been with previous opposition leaders – red or blue.
Miliband is a busted flush, they say, the public mistrust him. He’s a joke, or he’s the man who stabbed his brother in the back. Most damningly, he’s the Tories secret weapon.
All of this is utter rot, of course. He’s a decent guy who has an ability to connect with voters in a very direct way – face to face. It is hardly surprising Labour want to hold 4 million conversations with voters; if Miliband was involved in all of them, they’d be a lot further ahead in the polls.
But Labour have GOT to get a better answer when the national media come calling and question his leadership qualities.
Labour candidate for Ipswich, David Ellesmere, told Channel 4 News a fortnight ago that people recognise Ed Miliband “stood up to power” because he took on Rupert Murdoch. Last night he was at it again, claiming on BBC Newsnight that:
“When people think about the way he stands up to powerful interests, when he stood up to Rupert Murdoch over phone hacking, when he stood up to the energy companies when David Cameron didn’t, and in particular when he stopped the headlong rush to war in Syria, I think people do actually like those qualities.”
Labour campaigners are not going to like me saying this, and they’ll accuse me of the same bias they’re currently accusing the BBC and every other national news organisation bar the Mirror, the People and the Guardian, but what absolute rubbish.
Standing up to power? Let’s take the briefest look at the facts shall we?
On phone hacking, Ed Miliband and Labour got most upset because Labour MPs and peers, like Lord Prescott, had their mobile phones hacked. Despite the fact that interfering with a mobile telephone is already a criminal offence, Labour used the scandal to push for laws that would allow Government’s to regulate the content of our “free” press.
As for standing up to Rupert Murdoch, if only he had! Just last week Rupert Murdoch told the world how Ed Miliband fawned over him so much at their meeting it was embarrassing. But even if he had stood up to Murdoch, it is easy to attack your enemies in the media, but much more impressive to stand up to your friends. So while Labour MPs were berating Ed Miliband for posing with a copy of the Sun, which he weakly apologised for, there has been total silence from Ed Miliband about the revelations that journalists at the Mirror operated an industrial scale phone hacking that pushed celebrities like Paul Gascoigne into the alcoholic gutter.
On standing up to the energy companies, I am astonished that any Labour candidate, anywhere in the country, wants to remind the voters of this flawed policy. What happened? Oh that’s right, Ed Miliband announced a price freeze on energy companies after the election. But it turned out that prices were right at their peak; had the legislation that Labour tried to introduce in the Commons been enacted we’d all be stuck paying much more for our energy than we are now. Since Ed Miliband announced a price freeze, prices have fallen considerably. Suddenly this “freeze” was a cap. Which presumably explains why Labour candidates were queuing up at the Labour Party Conference to have their photo taken with a giant block of ice; ice being related to caps after all. Indeed, now we don’t know if it is a cap (some Labour people say so) or a freeze (some Labour leaflets still claim this). Chaos.
But, I hear you say, surely where David Ellesmere is spot on is when he argues that Ed Miliband stopped the headlong rush to war in Syria. Sadly this too is a re-writing of history. Dan Hodges eviscerates Mr Miliband in a piece for the Telegraph here, making it quite clear that Miliband was initially quite happy to vote for military action after Bashar Al Assad had used chemical weapons on a civilian population – only the second dictator to do so in fifty years – until his backbenchers started organising against him. He then introduced amendment after amendment to his conditions for supporting military action, all of which were accepted by the Government, whose own backbenchers were also organising against. Ed Miliband showed the type of leader he was by doing a reverse ferret and following his rebelling backbenchers into the no lobby in a show of party unity.
So when David Ellesmere says that Ed Miliband stands up to people in power I don’t really know what he means. The only time Ed has shown any backbone at all is when he stood against his brother for the party leadership. It seems he only stands up when he wants to seize power.