Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ed Miliband: Too Good For Us?

I've seen a few op-eds since the election waxing lyrical about the former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, and how he was an all-round good egg. There's also been a couple of sound-bites from Labourites about how he will be sorely missed, and even that he's 'too good for this fucking country'. I thought that I've got to weigh in on this discussion.

Let's start with my own perceptions of Ed. From the various speeches I saw, I took him to be a reasonably honest man. He had a set of principles which guided him, although he wasn't afraid of being brutal if necessary. He had a good knack of being able to identify the problems the country faced, such as food-banks, in-work poverty, vested interests in various markets and the media and disproportionate influence in politics. He wasn't afraid of confronting these issues and trying to grapple with them.

All that being said, he led the Labour Party to its worst defeat at the ballot box since 1987, and its worst thrashing in Scotland since it was founded. So why did the electorate reject him? The answer is simple.

Ed Miliband was a very good Leader of the Opposition. His job was to identify and highlight flaws in Government policy, which he did extremely well. The problem is, if you're Leader of the Opposition, then you have to simultaneously paint yourself as Prime Minister in Waiting. And that was what Ed Miliband was terrible at.

Voters do not elect parties that simply identify problems. Voters elect parties that put forward practical solutions. Any bore in the local boozer can tell you what's wrong with the country, but it takes someone special to create a compelling vision of how to improve things. Ed Miliband did not convince on that measure. He was asking all the right questions, but his solutions left a lot to be desired. And so the British people looked at him, listened to what he had to say, and then said, 'very nice, but you ain't the man for the job.'

The reason that Miliband was so popular with the Left was that he took them well into their comfort zone. For five years, they had tremendous fun, having a go a baby-eating, benefit-cutting Tories. They took to the streets, waved their placards, had deep intellectual conversations about the 'progressive majority', and the popular desire for socialism, radicalism, statism and just about every other -ism going. It made them feel brilliant, because that's what they did when they were teenagers, and who doesn't want to remember those heady days of youth?

And they achieved precisely fuck-all, because most people in this country aren't teenagers, and have grown up. Most people in this country don't have time to cock about London being kettled and sitting in a smelly tent outside St. Paul's, because they're too busy working full time. Most people are pretty fucking pissed that their rents are too high and their energy bills mean they have to wear jumpers all the fucking time, but they also recognise that slapping arbitrary price controls onto something probably won't work. Most people are pretty fucked off that the great train of state was rather unceremoniously derailed a few years back, driven too fast around the curve by twatty bankers and incompetent regulators. They're also pretty pissed with the train mechanics, who didn't check the fucking brakes properly, and certainly aren't minded to give them their jobs back.

Ed Miliband was a good Leader of the Opposition, and is probably a decent human being as well. But he would've been a fucking awful Prime Minister, and all the nicest op-eds in the world aren't going to change that