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Ed Miliband needs to get Mad as Hell!

Peter Finch won Best Actor Oscar due to this speech in the 1976 film, Network. In the depths of a recession, he plays a News Anchor who spontaneously tells the audience that “Nothing’s gonna change until you get mad!” And calls upon them to stand up and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!

We’ve got a new recession in this country and one that is entirely the fault of the Tory government’s policy of squeezing the demand-side of the economy.  Just when the policies of the last Labour government were achieving sustainable growth, we’ve now been thrown back into misery.

Never has there been a time when it would be more appropriate for the British people to get up and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”

Unfortunately, the people have no leader. The Labour Party should be leading the call for them to get “mad as hell”, but Ed Miliband believes that confrontational politics puts voters off. I disagree. I say that the tentative politics puts voters off, because they don’t notice what we’re saying.

Peter Kellner, of YouGov, breaks down his polling to tell us that

the main opposition party should be miles ahead, not a measly five points.”

Some might say that we should never underestimate the determination of a quiet Miliband, but the country doesn’t want an Ian Duncan Smith, we want a voice for the people, and the people are angry.

We know Ed’s capable of having an edge, we see it enough in PMQs, but once he’s away from the dispatch box he seems to become a shadow of himself.

Some may get the impression that he’d rather have a discussion with the Fabian Society than defend the jobs and prospects of the British people. This is completely the wrong impression, but it’s completely his fault for allowing it to develop.

The Westminster Bubble takes the view that confrontation puts voters off politics. The electorate themselves say that they are sick of aggressive politics. Many people genuinely liked that press conference when Cameron and Clegg announced their coalition agreement.

But when they say that, they are referring to the mindless scoring of political points. It doesn’t mean that we should fail to offer a voice of opposition in an adversarial political system.

The leader didn’t oppose Ken Clarke’s plan to abolish jails without an effective alternative in place. The leader didn’t oppose the Forest sell-off. The leader raised no concerns regarding the bombing of Libya.

To miss out on one or two opportunities would be understandable. But to persistently miss opportunities is becoming something of a habit.

The NHS policy is bound to end up as a U-turn dressed up as a fudge. But the only thing I can remember Ed Miliband saying about this is that the Tories risk re-contaminating their brand. It was a good thing to say, but it wasn’t noticed by the bulk of the British people.

We’re getting towards a stage where our leader will be regarded by the British people as being the invisible man.  It doesn’t have to be this way. The man who showed such a determination in the leadership contest, the man who took on his own brother and beat him in a four month, gruelling selection process, must surely be able to show some of that same determination in the leadership of our political party.

But maybe I’m wrong? Maybe it’s not a choice thing? Maybe Ed just doesn’t have the aptitude for the job of leading the opposition?

If that were the case then he needs to recognise the fact himself, because he would not be doing the party any favours by continuing in a role that doesn’t suit his talents.

But I don’t think that is the case. I think he’s badly advised. We’ve tried non-confrontational politics and it hasn’t worked. The time has come for the leader to take his strategy onto a new and more aggressive stage.

4 Comments

  1. This is spot on. People are waiting for someone to lead them, to genuinely be on their side, and to stand up to this government’s attempt to re-shape the country.

    The “shallower cuts, not just yet” message might have found favour on the pages of the Financial Times but it means nothing to people worrying about putting food on the table or the public sector workers being thrown from their jobs.

    Taking about “re-contaminating” brands just isn’t going to connect with anyone outside the Westminster bubble. And neither is finding those tiny dividing lines, usually focussed on the poor timing of a policy or how competently it’s delivered, rather than its fundamentals.

    Those who think Labour will sneak back into power, either by virtue of the coalition’s unpopularity or its fragility, without a compelling economic alternative are just wrong.

  2. Dan McCurry says:

    Thanks, Mr Nowhere. Or do you mind if I call you News.
    A very supportive comment. Let’s see if it gets read and acted upon.

  3. Phil C. says:

    Great article! … and one with which I strongly agree.
    However, may I suggest a viewpoint for consideration?
    During the Blair years, the Parliamentary Labour Party grew increasingly apart from the wider Labour movement, and it may be that some of Ed Miliband’s timidity now is due to a lack of confidence in how surely all ‘his’ MPs would follow his lead. The leadership contest exposed that the PLP is somewhat disproportionately Blairite – yet the press seemed to want to ignore how many MPs owed their position to Blair and instead to say that Ed was not supported by the majority of Labour MPs.
    The Shadow Cabinet elections also forced Ed’s hand to some extent, as he is not free to give shad cab positions to those whom he might want in his team.
    Maybe Ed’s timidity is a strategy of patience and caution while a phased re-alignment takes place within the PLP, with party unity being maintained throughout? … and he’s gambling that he’ll have enough time to do this?

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