Tuesday, 17 January 2012

It is time to leave Ed Miliband alone

The news today that Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, has turned on Labour leader Ed Miliband is unsurprising. Miliband was, after all, installed as leader of his party by the block votes of the unions and, thus far, he has failed to impress in the job.

Media and political commentators have increasingly compared the Miliband leadership with that of Iain Duncan-Smith's time leading the Conservatives. I'm not aware of anyone yet taking things one step further, to advise the government on how to deal with, and maximise returns on, Miliband's failure to build momentum, so here it goes.

The government should take a leaf out of Tony Blair's playbook and simply ignore Miliband. The guidance should be issued to the attack dogs to step back from the fray, while a line to take should be issued to all government ministers on how to deflect any questions about him. This is what Blair did when faced with IDS. Instead David Cameron should use this opportunity of facing a disjointed opposition to help redefine what the coalition is all about.

Again, Tony Blair used to do this brilliantly by concocting a row - mostly over public service reform - where he both set the topic for and the parameters of the debate. This allowed him to communicate to the electorate that he was striving for reforms but, at the same time, give tidbits of concessions to those in his own party who weren't happy with the pace of change. While this public debate was happening the IDS era Conservative Party was ignored.

Substitute Lib Dems for Brownites and you have a model for a constructive disagreement in government which will undermine Miliband with the electorate without overtly attacking him.  

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