In July 2011, I wrote a article called “Ed Miliband’s Biggest Mistake” which argued that the “Red Ed” nick name was a blessing, not a curse. My main point was that only through gaining the attention of the media can you then get your message across. Miliband had rejected the image that the journalists tried to construct for him. As a result he made himself a boring subject to write about, so they didn’t write about him.
Although the article was prominent and caused some conversation, Miliband soon asserted that he wanted to occupy the middle ground and be seen to do so. “Red Ed” was the last thing he needed to win a general election. Or so he thought.
Jump forward to the summer of 2013 and Ed Miliband has the worst poll rating of any political leader in living memory. His efforts to avoid being labelled resulted in the media not knowing what to do with him, and the public considering him a weirdo and a loser.
Then came the summer of the lost soul. If this was a movie, it would be the bit just before the final act, when it looks like the hero is all washed up. Totally alone and against impossible odds, the hero has to figure out how to make one last push against the bad guy. And that’s the moment when Red Ed was re-born. He gave The Daily mail what they wanted; a fearsome, dangerous left-winger. And in return they devoted page 1, 2 and 3 to him and his policies.
I was watching conference on TV and I can tell you that the broadcasters, including the BBC were ignoring Labour. I know there was a hostage drama in Africa, but even after that story, the BBC were pushing Labour down the running order. The story of a cat stuck up a tree would have made more impact. Labour were written off as insignificant because the country had decided that we had already lost.
However, everything changed with speech. And this is the important point, it’s the man they vote for not the policies. The policy of an energy freeze is tiny, minuscule, by comparison to building a million homes. Yet the energy freeze commanded the attention because it was controversial.
They always vote for the man. The policies serve a purpose by explaining who the man is, but when they mark that cross in that box, they aren’t voting for an energy price freeze, they are voting for the man who promises to deliver something. Red Ed is a man they can picture in their mind. Whereas the ”man who occupies the middle ground of politics” is not someone they can easily picture.
How the pollsters will respond to this new position will be interesting. We’re told that we have the left-wing former Lib Dems on our side, but Peter Kellner also warns us that we shouldn’t frighten the Ukip voters who are splitting the Tory vote in many of the key marginals.
This is interesting, because a pollster would probably argue that Red Ed will win the Lib Dems but lose the Ukips. I don’t agree, because I don’t think we misunderstand the Ukip vote. I think Ukip represents Tory disillusion more than resentment towards immigrants or the EU. I think these people would be more frightened of “Nowhere Man” than they would be of “Red Ed”, because when they stand in the polling booth, they can at least picture arrogant Cameron, but they can’t picture Nowhere Man. They will only vote for someone they can picture.
They may not agree with Red Ed, but they can see that he knows what he wants and they’ve clearly heard his arguments because the Daily Mail has devoted page 1, 2 & 3 to him.
Red Ed may put people on edge as they size up whether or not he is dangerous, but I think the Labour leader is sensible enough not actively destroy the country. As for the energy companies, they can hedge against the price of gas on the London Futures market. I’m sure the bankers will appreciate the extra business enough that some of them might even consider voting for Labour. Viva Red Ed!