current affairs

Ed Milliband and the parable of the poor strategist.

Written by Nigel Simpkins

A Milibite was travelling along a mountain road (alone, because his G4S security detail had failed to turn up for work) when he was set upon by some rioting yobs, beaten (in a general election), ro

A Milibite was travelling along a mountain road (alone, because his G4S security detail had failed to turn up for work) when he was set upon by some rioting yobs, beaten (in a general election), robbed (of all his credibility), and left for dead in the electoral desert.

The next day, there came a Cleggite. He considered helping the poor Milibite, but the Milibite had made some pretty poor economic decisions in the past that the Cleggite was not keen to be associated with. The Cleggite said “I, er, could probably help you some other time, and I wouldn’t rule it out, I’m busy with, uh,  government.” and hurried home.

Then along came a Compassionate conservative. Surely he would take pity. The poor Milibite, roasting from the heat of the lost support of The Sun, cried out “Water! Water!” so the compassionate conservative offered him a water biscuit. He then crossed the road and went home, duty done. He wanted nothing more to do with the poor traveller.

And so the Milibite lay there in the electoral desert, the Sun excoriating his skin and the lack of water driving him to delerium of wild sensations. He suddenly thought Harriet Harman was a convincing media spokeswoman, and, even more inexplicably, announced something he called a ‘National Policy Forum’.

After many years, a group of the Milibites who had lived in the valley of the shadow of the cabinet approached, who were collectively strong enough to lift the Milibite onto their shoulders and carry him home. And so, the good social democrats presented him to their conference. Their leader had grown from the experience. He was wiser, sharper, a little older, but most importantly, he had a drive to win. And a slightly boosted poll rating, though that was still shaky.

The Milibites went on from that place united, for they had put their trust in their leader. (Admittedly because he was their only hope.)

But what for the Compassionate Conservatives and the Cleggites? As the dog returns to his vomit, so the Liberals returned to their leader. The Cleggites fooled the peoples of the tribe of England once. The second time, their little David might not outwit the Goliath of incontrovertible electoral destruction. The Milibites conquered the cities as their kind had for generations, and the Compassionate Conservatives ploughed the fields and scattered the good seed on the land. How the next election might result though, is still anyone’s guess.

Here endeth the lesson.

At Conference though, the mass love-in wasn’t for Ed Miliband. The riotous applause didn’t greet the ‘next PM’. It greeted every other ‘celebrity’, from Olympians to comedians, through to board members of ‘Wickes’. Support was so great for these nobodies that at one point I thought the Conference might pass an amendment giving Mo Farah’s former PE Teacher extensive executive powers, or a place in the shadow cabinet. Celebrity has an allure that the Labour Party always finds hard to resist. The party may have shunned Tony Blair, but it isn’t averse to using his tricks.

The leader’s speech was the usual orchestrated mess of standing ovations and obvious soundbites. The new policy he unveiled – “the forgotten 50%”  – is just a hurried re-working of Nicola Murray’s “quiet bat people” line, and for the oldest non-policy idea in British Politics, the proto-patriotic “One Nation” he had simply stolen a Conservative trope and repeated it to a crowd of Olympo-philes.

The guardian report illustrated the problem though:

“A few days ago he went for a walk with his son, Daniel, who offered to help with the speech. His son said he wanted dinosaurs in the speech. Dinosaurs that eat people. “No, we tried predators last year,” he said, his hands and ears flapping wildly in the gales produced by 9,000 people tittering.” (Ok, I may have made that last bit up.)

Yes, he did do predators last year. It fell flat. Perhaps charismatic Ed can sail a little more smoothly, crowd surfing over the masses. Let’s hope so. What he has achieved this year may not mean a huge increase in support, but he certainly is making the haters think twice.