THE BLOG

Ed Miliband Is Proving His Leadership Credentials

18/02/2014 17:21 GMT | Updated 20/04/2014 10:59 BST

"Ours was a socialist household," said Ed Miliband in 2005. "We were brought up not just to think that the injustices of society were wrong, but to believe that through political change, something could be done about them," he added.

An honest statement, as part of his inaugural speech as an MP in the House of Commons, and probably not one he thought would be used against him eight years later.

The Daily Mail's attack on Miliband's father, Ralph, as "the man who hated Britain" could have been a damaging blow for the Labour leader - but quite strangely, it appeared to have the opposite effect. Miliband's impassioned defence of his father, an innocent man standing up against an unprovoked personal slight, earned him a new found respect among many.

The slightly nasal, meek leader of the opposition probably seemed like an easy target for the right-wing behemoth, yet suddenly he appeared strong and in control. It is probably too far to say that it was a turning point for his tenure, but in the subsequent months following that October double-page spread Miliband seems to have come into his own.

And it has been a bad time for David Cameron, with over 50% of people believing he responded badly to the floods and a widespread criticism for his backtracking on environmental promises. Labour currently enjoys a 37% rating in opinion polls, comfortably ahead of the Conservatives on 28%, a lead they have now held for some time.

One of the biggest criticisms of modern politicians is that "they're all the same". While they were ultimately unsuccessful, Ukip's performance in last week's Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election goes to show that controversial and populist politics can gain traction when people feel disillusioned with the Westminster regulars.

People have taken note of Ukip because they are different from the political norm - the three main parties have slowly agglomerated into a centre-ground mass of run-of-the-mill politics where it is taboo to say anything too controversial. As a voter, how are you supposed to decide between parties that are the same in all but name?

While many have argued that Ukip's rise should be a blessing for the Left - for every "Tea-Party Tory" who protests and chooses to vote for Nigel Farage, the Right becomes ever more divided - there is also a threat that Ukip are starting to appeal to Labour's traditional working-class support.

Perhaps it is unsurprising then to see the Labour leader renew traditional left-wing policies - raising the top rate of income tax, promising price freezes on energy bills and striking a new relationship with trade unions. He even admitted last year that he is trying to "bring back socialism" to British politics. Heaven forbid a Labour politician might actually be mildly left-wing.

So it seems at long last that Miliband has grown into his role, distinguishing Labour's policies from those of the coalition and starting to throw off the shackles of New Labour neoliberalism. We may finally see a return to a pluralist party political scene.

Now that may all be very well, but the cult of personality is increasingly becoming a determining factor in modern politics - you can even put Ukip's partial success down to Nigel Farage's smarm and the headline-grabbing abilities of right-wing crackpots like Godfrey Bloom and Neil Hamilton.

David Cameron always seems to squirm out of a quagmire at the eleventh hour, and Nick Clegg's success in those televised pre-election debates in 2010 is one of the main reasons he finds himself where he is today.

Miliband, on the other hand, has always been criticised for an aura of weakness. From getting pelted with an egg to donning over-sized protective glasses on a factory visit, he doesn't exactly ooze persona like his rivals. With 24-hour news channels, wall-to-wall internet coverage and presumably more televised debates in the build-up to next year's election he will have to discredit this analysis.

But his job will not be to convert conservative critics, but to soak up the floating voters and prove to those who are disillusioned that Labour will offer a pro-social alternative to the current government's failed austerity.

In his Hugo Young memorial lecture last week he spoke of the principle of equality that drives his politics, resonating strongly with that speech he gave in parliament nearly nine years ago, he sounded like a man with a rejuvenated purpose.

Rather than the dithering upstart that first came to national attention, Miliband now comes across as a compassionate leader, a considered politician and a moral man - it would be no surprise to see him moving into No. 10 next May.