news is rather thin this new year, so it must be time to put the boot into Ed Miliband. The usual suspects have been at it of course: for example the celebrated 'false flag' blogger Dan Hodges is barely able to write about anything else (although he did produce an excellent blog on the Lawrence killer sentences this week).But the new specialists in anti-Ed propaganda is the Guardian, which has been orchestrating a series of attacks on Ed that are as blatant as they are clumsy in their distortion of what political commentators are saying about the poor guy. Two obvious examples of this tendency, just so you don't think I'm making it up:
- a Policy Network report by centre-left academic Ben Jackson and Labour pensions spokeman Gregg McClymont which presented the evidence from previous Labour election defeats in the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s as a cautionary tale for Labour today was spun by the Guardian as an attack on Ed's leadership.
- an article yesterday in the New Statesman by Labour peer and Ed 'guru' Maurice Glasman which, if anything, was criticising Ed Balls rather than Miliband, and not very coherently at that, was, similarly, spun by the Guardian as an attack on Ed (Miliband)'s leadership.
Although well known ConDem sympathiser Martin Kettle may have some role in this, I think the main instigators of the Guardian's anti-Ed vendetta are Chief Political Editor Nicholas Watt and Political Editor Patrick Wintour. This "dynamic duo" have recently embarked on a mission to oust Ed Miliband at any cost. It may be that they have been against Ed from the beginning; they may be on the payroll of the very well-funded LINO pressure group Progress; or David Miliband may have promised them advisory jobs in his private office after he replaces Ed (in his dreams!) Their precise motivations are (for the moment) a mystery, although I am working with contacts at the paper to find out what I can.
So is Ed Miliband on thin ice? I honestly don't think so. Labour's poll ratings have been improving (albeit slowly) over the last month as the Cameron "veto bounce" fades. I can't remember a single instance of a leader getting the boot if their party was in front in the polls. Certainly when IDS was forced out in the autumn of 2003, the Tories were miles behind Labour. The normal rule of thumb is that, to be replaced mid-term as an opposition leader before even getting the chance to fight an election, you've got to be doing really badly. And Ed is doing just... so-so. In fact, on some measures he's actually doing rather well; Labour is currently running at about 12 percentage points above its share of the vote at the previous election. 18 months into a parliament, I can't remember a Labour opposition leader ever doing as well as that; not Foot in 1980, nor Kinnock in 1984, nor John Smith in 1993.
What's more, the "critiques" of Ed are either not really critiques at all (e.g. the McClymont/Jackson Policy Network report, which is actually quite supportive of what Ed is doing), or they're critiques of Ed Balls rather than Miliband (to the extent that I can make coherent sense of it, the Glasman article falls into this camp), or they're right-wing LINO or ConDem hackery with no real traction in the Labour Party (Hodges, Rentoul, Kettle). There has not been any mainstream Labour voice saying Ed is crap. As Eoin Clarke of the excellent Green Benches website points out, Ed has probably lost some grassroots support by not delivering on to the (slightly) radical stance of his leadership election campaign. And my belief is that if he were more radical he would do himself a big favour. But none of that has any bearing on whether he survives in the job or not.
For better or worse (I think overall for the better), Ed Miliband is safe in the job. Ignore any hack who tries to tell you otherwise.