Problems for the MiliBrand
Ed Miliband is not taking his shellacking lying down. According to current opinion polls, he is the most unpopular Labour Party Leader since the 1970s and in popular parlance (due to being under attack from a right-wing media), he can’t catch a cold. He is in full Hamlet mode, facing a sea of troubles. Labour should, it is argued, be miles ahead in the polls at this stage of the electoral cycle. Worst of all, natural supporters are turning or have turned against him – we’re thinking of you, New Statesman – and are trying to label him a Gordon Brown Mark II. It has not been a good few weeks for Mr Miliband. The Observer’s recent front page splash suggested with most of his Front Bench willing to support Alan Johnson as an alternative leader that Ed’s days were numbered. To paraphrase ‘Pulp Fiction’, Left and Right are saying ‘Ed’s Dead Baby, Ed’s Dead’.
What are Ed’s actual weaknesses? Apart from him being human and flawed, there are two specific character issues that reside. A lot of the criticism centres around him not being an Alpha Male; it really does. Well, so what? The questions should be: will he make the right economic and foreign policy choices as Prime Minister and would he make better choices than David Cameron? Who would you trust more? Who would you say is more connected to the average citizen? Then there’s the Brother Question. This is slightly trickier as we’re dealing with unknowables here so let’s say what’s evident. There is no clear evidence that David would be a significantly more popular leader than Ed. There is policy evidence, however, to suggest that Ed is more left wing and less Blairite than David. Labour supporters need to recognise this.
Why the attack now? Lynton Crosby’s been planning this onslaught for months. If you don’t think the British Press is biased against Labour, just read the headlines and opinion articles. The Press has turned feral since Leveson and the Tories have played along with a lot of it; anti-immigrant, pro-plutocrat, and obsessed with finding ‘evidence’ to show that Ed Miliband is ‘weak’. The Labour Party Leader knows he will not get a fair shake of the dice; there’s six months of tabloid and broadsheet war to go, whether he continues as leader (as is currently likely) or is taken out in a coup. The phoney war is over.
Yet Miliband has strengths and can play to those. The first is to accept that Murdoch Press support is gone, possibly for a generation. Co-operate with them by all means, but don’t do them any favours. Instead, Miliband needs to re-stress the ‘One Nation’ strategy; appeal to above the 35% but emphasise equality rather than opportunity. In other words, tilt to the Centre-Left rather than Centre-Right. He has the mettle to stick with what’s right. He should be given that chance. Politics should be full of fallible people; it should be human. Ditching a leader mid-stream is a risk Labour Party MPs shouldn’t take; they can win forthcoming General Election and they need to believe it.
To Boldly Go
‘Interstellar’ is currently the number one movie in much of the World. It’s easy to see why. Not only does everyone need some escapism at least some time in their lives, they also need to think of something bigger than themselves. This capacity for imagination; thinking of what’s out there, of what’s possible, resonates with our situation on Earth now. We live in a politically uncertain World, one where market forces rather than human solidarity is the predominant driving force
for our human race. Good science fiction helps us look up from beyond our locked-in world view and enables us to become human again. Christopher Nolan manages to capture this extremely well via his protagonists; we see humanity at its best and worst and see, in that oldest dramatic conceit, a mirror up to ourselves. Our World and our lives are so precious yet we gamble with the very survival of the planet. Sometimes, the answer is in the stars; what made us, can be the saving of us too.
Obama and a Hostile Congress
How many times does it have to be said? The Republican Party is on a wrecking mission to degrade and destroy the legacy of the Obama Presidency. They’re determined to make the Lame Duck period start now. The President has an opportunity to take an ‘oh F*** it’ stance over the next two years and rule by Executive Order as much as possible. Unlike all of the Republicans, he’s been elected twice, nationally. He has the Bully Pulpit. Time enough to make that potential legacy stronger and live up to Paul Krugman’s eloquent description of Obama as a great President. The Chomsky line that Obama is some sort of PR Man for The System and a Projector of American Might doesn’t ring true, despite determined ‘whataboutery’ on the part of some of the Left. Obama can bend the arc of history for good; let Obama be Obama.