Sunday, 2 January 2011

Er, hang on a sec...

Ok my next proper article will be tomorrow but, in the meantime, just wanted to mention this. I mean, it's obviously just coincidence, but check out the last two lines of today's Observer editorial on Ed's 100 days as leader, centred on Labour's slowness in positioning itself on the economy:
After 100 days, Ed Miliband has not yet properly explained to the country as a whole who he is and what he believes. He shouldn't waste any more time.
And compare with the following line from this Centre Left article exactly two months previously on 2 November, the article centred on Labour's slowness in positioning itself on the economy:
We, the public, are still unsure what the Big Idea is.
and the last lines:
The first 100 days of a leadership is the time to establish the ground rules - so time is short.
I mean, I'm not delusional enough to think that a national newspaper nicked my article wholesale but still, a bit odd, don't you think?


  1. Congratulations, Rob. What better compliment than to be ripped off by the Cardigan ;-)

    Seriously, though, that criticism struck me as a bit odd at the time. Rather like the "Osbourne is right" article, which gathered comments which re-enforced your "comfort zone" criticism.

    What is this lack, I wonder? Perhaps you think, like Blair has suggested recently, that the first duty of a Labour leader is to knock the confidence of the party in its own self-worth. The most favourable narrative the captialist press will give us is "responsible Labour leader condemns protests and strikes against cuts, sets out own cuts agenda".

  2. Firstly James, you need to get some sleep - what are you doing posting at 4 in the morning!

    Re Blair's comments, you say "knocking our confidence", I say "challenging ourselves to strive for better". I'd say the last thing the Party needs right now is to be coddled, we've had eight months to lick our wounds already.

    By the way, you imply that I want us to challenge ourselves merely in search of good headlines in the "capitalist" press (although the Observer hardly fits in that category!) - I don't. I want us to do it because it's the right thing to do. What is killing us is giving Cameron arguments to beat us with, not the press. What exactly is our answer to his question "what's the plan"?

  3. "What is killing us is giving Cameron arguments to beat us with"

    Who is doing this? Blair's book certainly gave Cameron arguments to beat us with. But I'm sure whatever anyone says, Cameron will be knocking us, he's supposed to - what matters is how effective it is with the general public. At the moment, he's having difficulty presenting is own case, let alone describing ours.

    Any plan other than austerity is going to have difficulty getting heard. I didn't mean to suggest anything but good intentions on your part - but it's clear that the "rudderless" narrative will be the one used by parties hostile to Labour.

  4. James, I wish you were right about Cameron. But in fact I think, on the contrary, he is doing very well indeed with presenting his case to the public (especially considering what he is doing to the country). As long as we do not have a plan of action - even general principles - we are on the back foot.

    Now, this is a 2-year policy review. Are we still then going to be saying "blank sheet of paper" to the Today programme in 18 months' time? It's not sustainable.

    As for Blair, I appreciate that not everyone in the Party likes him. But as regards the public - which is what matters - 47% of them think he was a good prime minister in spite of all his shortcomings.
    In other words, as far as the public's concerned that is pretty good for an ex-PM (Thatcher didn't even reach that when she was in power.)

    Ed, on the other hand, much as I am willing him to succeed, has an approval rating of about 8% and most of the public don't know who he is. That needs to change, and it starts with defining what he stands for.

  5. I'm part of that 47% - the great shame is that the initial compromise with the establishment on political economy was more than tactical, it was strategic. So no wonder the Third Way fizzled out and stakeholding never became a core of Labour's thinking on economic development.

    You have to admit that his comments in A Journey can only be seen as an endorsement of European austerity and a condemnation of efforts (by business secretary Peter Mandelson!) to secure the recovery by means of industrial activism. This, along with his tacit endorsement of David Miliband, hasn't helped our party - it certainly didn't help David present himself as his own man within Labour.

    I don't think anyone believes that the policy review starts with a blank sheet of paper, so it was obviously a mistake to speak of it in such terms on the Today programme. In fact, much of the response to the coalition is informed by existing Labour policy.

    Ed will continue to struggle in getting positive media coverage outside of the usual outlets. What matters is that the party's message is carried by party activists to people's doorsteps.

  6. Glad to hear you are part of the 47%. Haven't read A Journey yet but got if for Xmas. Not sure his tacit endorsement of DM made any difference, it's the twisted electoral college system that really made for odd results (see my last piece). But we are where we are. Sadly, at the moment I am not sure our response is informed by anything but what a particular Shadow Minister happens to think. There needs to be an awful lot more discipline on message, modern media demands it.

    I agree totally that we should always try and bypass the media to avoid our message being filtered. But doorknocking is not necessarily a very efficient way of doing so. That's why the internet is so good (speaking, for my sins, as ex-person in charge of these things for the Party).

    But: what is the message? Until someone defines what it is we should be relaying on the doorstep, we are left at something of a loss.

  7. Local and devolved elections this year mean that people aren't entirely at a loss - or if they are, it's not because of the ill discipline of the shadow cabinet ;-)

  8. Hmmm. Well members will certainly knock on doors. Just not sure they will know what to say if the door opens...! Vote for me, er, I'll tell you the alternative policy in 2 years?

  9. What I meant is that local and devolved elections mean local and devolved policies.

  10. That's true. Lucky for us, really ;)


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