Thursday, 24 March 2011

Miliband misses his big opportunity

I'm disappointed in Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. If the Budget response from the leader of the opposition was the best they can do then Labour deserves to be in opposition for many years to come.

As I said in my post yesterday I was expecting - and dreading - great things from the Labour team of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. Having been the instigators of significant, complex and, to be fair to them, highly successful spin operations, when pulling the strings from the backrooms of government, I thought they would be prepared to unleash the mother of all rebuttal operations on George Osborne's Budget. Thanks to the economy he inherited there was a golden opportunity for Labour to land considerable punches on the Chancellor. They landed none.

Instead, Ed Miliband's speech was entirely pre-prepared - highlighted by his PPS moving her lips as she followed his delivery from the bench behind him. The Labour press team also sent out the speech as he stood up, highlighting a lack of flexibility or perhaps reluctance to engage on substantive issues.

When one of the current criticisms of Miliband and Labour is that they lack substance this was an error that should have been avoided. Instead of demolishing the Budget he delivered a lazy, cliché filled rant which wasn't even enough to satisfy his backbenchers. They deserted the Chamber in their droves.

Few doubt the Labour leader has brains, but judgement and a political six sense is also needed if an a Opposition leader is to be successful. Beyond one good line - "Nigel Lawson with an ipod" - he allowed his emotions and the atmosphere to get the better of him which adversely affected his delivery - how he looked and sounded.

His delivery is never polished; he is awkward and geeky at the best of times needing to soften his vowels to stop himself sounding like Wallace of Gromit fame. Once his heckles rise any hope of comic timing, varying the pace of his delivery, effectively communicating with non verbal signals disappears. If he was being fed the key criticisms to make by a team of wonks analysing the Budget as it was delivered, allowing him to forensically dissect the Budget, I believe we would have seen a far better performance from Miliband. This is what I expected to see; where was Ed Balls whispering attack lines in his ear? If this had happened Miliband would have been more comfortable and it would have stopped his words falling into an inelegant rant.

Who is at fault for this we can only guess, but sometime in the last week a decision must have been made to stick to a pre-prepared script. Baldwin, Balls, Roberts or Miliband himself? Whoever decided on this strategy got it badly wrong.

It leaves you wondering who were the real talents in the 'new' Labour project because on yesterday's showing it certainly wasn't anyone who has now graduated to the current Labour frontbench.

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