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Ed Miliband: A Promising Few Weeks, but a Worrying Finale

Posted: 23/07/11 19:00

Poll analysts and political intellects may be fairly inconsistent when stating more general theories, but it is broadly accepted across by most that politicians are granted "honeymoon" phases when gaining power, be it of their constituency, political party or the country. However, this was not a luxury granted to Ed Miliband when he became Leader of the Opposition in September last year. The Labour Party had enjoyed complementary opinion polls during Harriet Harman's few months as stand-in leader, and it's safe to say that Mr Miliband's appointment sent few shockwaves in the direction of the electorate.

The key story about the 2010 Labour Leadership Contest was not that Ed Miliband had won control, but that David Miliband's brother had narrowly beat him to win control. In the nine months that followed, Ed Miliband should have managed to make his mark on Labour whilst providing a legitimate alternative to the coalition government. Instead, he lurked in the gloomy closing paragraphs of news stories, with little more than a one line quote to show for his views. Just weeks ago, Ed Miliband's authority hit a new low, when rumours arose of senior Labour figures questioning his ability to lead the party.

Little over a fortnight ago, on the evening of Sunday 3rd July, I'm sure the Labour Party leader felt like Christmas had come early. Handed to him on a plate was an opportunity to criticise David Cameron's government and set out proposals for change, whilst being seen to lead both his party and Parliament through the biggest media scandal this country has ever seen. His performance in subsequent weeks has been indisputably impressive. He has used twitter and the internet effectively to give his immediate responses to turning points of the scandal and preview his upcoming statements. The statements themselves have been a massive improvement from those prior to this month. Two sessions of Prime Minister's Questions remained before the summer reccess, and Miliband gave his strongest, most confident presentations to date. But in order to take real control of the situation, he needed substance. In order to gain the respect of the public, he needed to look like he was one step ahead of the Prime Minister.

In short, he has succeeded in this task. He called for an independent inquiry into the scandal led by a judge, and the Prime Minister made this happen. He called for a debate in the Commons chamber regarding Murdoch's bid for BSkyB, and the Prime Minister made this happen. He called for the decision over the bid to be referred to the Competition Commission, and the Prime Minister told Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to make this happen. He called for the parliamentary recess to be held back for a day in aid of an emergency debate following Tuesday's select committee hearings, and the Prime Minister made this happen. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Ed Miliband has held the upper hand over Cameron in the past few weeks.

Nevertheless, after every cheap honeymoon is the easyjet flight home. His response to the Prime Minister's statement last week was extremely scripted, and this was a criticism picked up by David Cameron, but the strength of the Leader of the Opposition was still very apparent. Yet, when he strayed away from his script during the opening of the afternoon's debate in the Commons, this deameanor of strength twisted into a swagger of arrogance. This completely threw me because it is a side to Mr Miliband that, as far as I am aware, has not been shown before. For the record, I hope it will never be shown again. Two weeks at the top does not match the nine months he has spent lagging behind. A irrelevant, unneeded attack against Education Secretary Michael Gove by Miliband caused a few jeers from his back benches, and he made the error of judgement to move away from the rehearsed text in front of him and scoff. Big mistake.

The parliamentary recess is now upon us and MPs will return to the commons in six weeks' time. Ed Miliband may have won a battle that has lasted sixteen days, but he hasn't won the war of the parliamentary term, which may last up to another three and a half years, if the PM has his way. I am not for a second stating that the hacking scandal is over, because I am certain there are more allegations to be revealed and more evidence will come to light. It will take years for this saga to conclude. Despite this, when parliament returns in September, it will have moved on. I look forward to Mr Miliband using the initiative and direction he has displayed during the past few weeks when approaching every item covered by Parliament. Equally as important, though, is my hope that the Leader of the Opposition will not attempt to engage the Prime Minister in a pointless game of political point scoring, and focus on the matters in hand.

 

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