Ed Miliband, leader of Britain's Labour Party, is probably not the luckiest man ever in politics but he certainly, in the form of the #Hackgate scandal, enjoyed a significant lucky break. Pre-Hackgate (it's been so significant that you sometimes forget there was a time such as this) he was floundering and his leadership looked shaky. Now the tables have completely turned and it's his opposite number, Prime Minister David Cameron who is on the ropes. All the question marks now hang over his premiership and Miliband is looking increasingly confident and assured.
It's something of a myth that Miliband 'gambled everything' by taking on the Murdoch's and News International. It was perfectly clear pretty much from his election that Murdoch stable of papers were never likely to back Miliband; they were amoung the first out of the traps when it came to branding the younger Miliband 'Red Ed'. So, he took less of a reckless gamble and more a calculated risk and by the time it was revealed Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked, which, incidentally, is when Miliband first really weighed-in, all bets were effectively off. Public opinion was always going to swing against the Murdoch's in a way which will probably prove largely irreversible.
So, we have to contextualise our assessment of Miliband's actions. Nonetheless, it will have shored-up his leadership amoung the Labour faithful and has done him no harm in the country at large. It's worth pausing to ask why his stance won such favour amoung red ranks. To me, the answer is simple; it's because he met the expectations placed on him for the first time to signal a qualitative break from previous leaderships who snuggled-up nice and tight to the Murdoch's. The key issue therefore becomes whether he will continue to meet those expectations.
Although he has had a good couple of weeks, in this regard, storm clouds are still massing on the near horizon. Today, the 'Interim Report' on the Refounding Labour consultation has not been favourably received. LabourList editor, Mark Ferguson, felt compelled to wonder;
"Is this it? - the document seems to be full of bureaucratic speak and short of concrete ideas."
Furthermore, If I were to say what is in this initial report is disappointing, from a democratic standpoint, that would be to perpetrate a great sin of understatement. If this is the general direction of travel that the leadership's proposals are based on then there is a very real chance they will be voted down at Labour's annual conference in Liverpool at the end of September. The key sticking point will be the removal of the unions bloc vote which I would expect them to unite against and they will probably be able to produce a decisive majority against the leadership.
Fresh from this humiliation; Miliband will be plunged straight into having to deal with another round of strikes over the government's public sector pension proposals. This time around, unlike on June 30th, there is a strong possibility that trade unions affiliated to Labour will be involved. His refusal to support the June 30th actions is what caused the foundations of the leadership to really shake as angry Labour members turned on their leader. If he takes a similarly critical stance this time around (and it's hard to see how he can avoid doing so if he is to maintain any level of consistency) I think his heroism over Hackgate probably wont save him from intense criticism and added to the that will be the ire of unions who are basically the only thing standing between Labour and financial oblivion.
So, while our Ed can toddle off on his summer hols content with a job well done over the past couple of weeks, it would be wise to remember that things can, and frequently do in politics, change just as quickly back in the opposite direction. He will need much more than one swallow to make his summer.Suggest a correction