Thursday, January 06, 2011

What does Ed Stand for?

Ed Miliband was today fielding questions on BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show, and it's fair to say it wasn't a wholly comfortable performance. He faced embarrassment when asked about his perceived slow start to the job, the fact the public think he "shafted" his brother in the Leadership contest, and some aspects of his domestic arrangements. But what I thought was the weakest part of the interview was his answer to the very last question (Listen on i-Player and scroll to 55 minutes in) :

Vine: What do you stand for?
Miliband: Well, l-let me just say what I think are the most important issues for us in 2011 going forward. It’s how we build a good economy, where we have the growth and jobs of the future, and that’s my critique of the government, going too far and too fast. It’s how we guarantee a future for our young people, because that is so important that the next generation has not just a hope but an expectation they can do better than the last. And also, frankly, and this does perhaps go to some of the questions, how we do politics differently. Y’see, I’ve always said that wisdom doesn’t just reside in one political party, I want the Labour party to reach out to people who we lost, to other parties where people perhaps feel they were Liberal Democrats and they want to come over to us, and I think we’ve got to do politics differently in this country, so we actually speak to people’s concerns.

It was a particularly weak response, which didn't address the point of the question - what do you stand for? What are your beliefs? Even Gordon Brown had his "moral compass". What his successor cobbled together was a series of vague sentiments which can perhaps be summarised as "I'm against the cuts, I want a better future for our children [who doesn't?], and I want Lib Dems to defect to us". In fact, it would have been better if he'd just said that.

His new press team should be worried that after 100 days as Leader there wasn't a simple and convincing summary of his beliefs which he could recite in answer to a pretty basic question. It was, to me, reminiscent of a classic scene in the West Wing, when White House press secretary CJ Cregg receives the transcript of an interview with the opposing Presidential candidate:

C.J. Cregg: He got the question.
Toby Ziegler: Who?
C.J. Cregg: The Majority Leader.
Toby Ziegler: When?
C.J. Cregg: Last night. Local news, Cleveland, Ohio - oh me-o, oh my-o, oh Cleveland, Ohio! He got the question.
Bonnie: What's the question?
Toby Ziegler: "Why do you want to be president?"
Bonnie: And what did he say?
C.J. Cregg: [reading from a transcript of the interview] "The reason I would run, were I to run, is I have a great belief in this country as a country and in this people as a people that go into making this country a nation with the greatest natural resources and population of people, educated people."
C.J. Cregg: [makes a shotgun motion with her arms] Chk-chk, boom!


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