Whilst Labour still lead the Conservatives in party-oriented opinion polls, Ed Miliband continues to suffer from poor ratings as a potential Prime Minister.
The Telegraph‘s Dan Hodges, a former Labour Party member, tells us that rEd will try to redress this shortcoming by becoming ‘presidential’, including penning an autobiography wherein he returns to his roots.
Obama did this rather successfully in 2008. Indeed, regardless of who wrote his books — the American president or a ghost writer — his life became mythical. Goodness knows why, yet he acquired — sometimes paid for — no end of followers, whom Hillary Clinton supporters dubbed Obots (Obama robots) who did the master’s bidding.
Miliband hopes for the same success. What can we expect in this campaign strategy? Hodges tells us:
Everything Labour says and does will be built around the leader himself.
The campaign launched in Brighton, to rave reviews. Speaking without notes, Miliband set out his prospectus for power. There was no attempt to talk up the party brand. Only the Miliband brand. “We intend to frame the differences in leadership and character between Ed and David Cameron,” said a source. “That’s the strategy. It will not be changing.”
This message was reinforced by the energy freeze policy. It wasn’t Labour’s policy, but Miliband’s policy. His team gave the boss ownership of an announcement they believe plays to his core narrative: a man of conviction, standing up to the strong in defence of the weak.
The autobiography will further enhance Image Miliband. When it appears, it might be interesting to compare early interviews with the book. For instance:
Early interviews proclaiming his love of American football have been replaced by his passion for Leeds United. Attempts to depict a rough and raw comprehensive education were dropped after it emerged he went to Haverstock, in north London, dubbed “Labour’s Eton”.
And, just as Obama fondly remembered the Islam of his Indonesian childhood, Miliband will recall his Jewish heritage:
Initially, this seemed out of bounds, to the disappointment of sections of the Jewish community. But since then he has written and spoken frequently on the subject, notably a moving account of a visiting the house in Poland where his mother spent much of her childhood. “He’s on a genuine journey with this,” a friend told me.
Not forgetting the all-important father factor, pivotal in Obama’s campaign:
One confidant told me that, although Miliband junior has always been publicly guarded about Ralph Miliband’s political legacy, it’s clear from private conversations that the former Marxist lecturer is hugely influential on his younger son’s political career. Another said, bluntly: “It’s all about the father.”
Ed is definitely Ralph’s son. He’s inherited what one friend calls a “scepticism towards parliamentary socialism”. This can be seen in his fascination with organisations outside the traditional Labour fold, such as 38 Degrees, Hacked Off and Occupy. “Wonder why he gets involved with these groups?” asks one Labour campaigner. “Ralph Miliband is why.”
Hodges is doubtful of Miliband’s approach. However, he points out that Labour were delighted when Cameron had a go at Miliband in his party conference speech last week:
“Cameron elevated Ed. He’s debating him. We’re on the same level now,” said a strategist.
It’s hard to know what to think. For many months, Hillary Clinton seemed a sure winner of the Democratic National Convention nomination, then Obama gained traction and is now, strangely, in his second term.
Never say never.