This summer has proved a disaster for the Labour Party and Ed Miliband. George Osborne's quip about the "vanishing shadow cabinet" hit home - and that was on the back of the Unite / Falkirk debacle. The papers and airwaves have been full of "advice" for Ed Miliband over the past week. However, as a believer in the mantra that good government is only possible with a strong opposition, here are the 10 things Ed should do:
1. Don't stay silent and allow the conference speech to become your only opportunity to salvage your leadership. You cannot change the past, but you can shape the future. Give two or three well thought-through interviews over the next week (Today, Newsnight, Sky, Sunday Times) that sketch out your personal priorities and claim back some turf. Don't allow yourself to be put on the defensive re Bryant / Byrne / impending reshuffle: write that off as August nonsense and talk up what really worries the public.
2. Arrange a "surprise" visit to Gibraltar, talk to the locals, meet the Chief Minister, make a speech about Britain sticking up for herself in challenging times.
3. Reshuffle your top team: you have some real talent in Parliament but you're not using it (one example: Tristram Hunt). Say goodbye to the tired and the stale. This includes showing some real leadership and moving Ed Balls on.
4. Sort out your private office. Bring back The Grid (the media planning tool that Alastair Campbell is credited with inventing), sort the sequencing of announcements out, ensure there are always one or two trusted, credible and effective "Big Beasts" to take to the airwaves if required.
5. You know when the election is likely to be. By that time you and the Labour movement need to be clearly associated with four or five real players in the shadow cabinet, along with a handful of simple and relevant policies (think back to Blair in 1997 - cut class sizes, cut NHS waiting lists, speed up punishment for persistent young offenders, get young people back into work, strengthen the economy and keep interest rates low). This is not rocket science, but you need to develop a comprehensive blueprint - and then to stick to it.
6. Engage the "oldies" - as David Blunkett calls them. You may not value what they have to contribute (although you should), but far better their ideas are being welcomed into your Party's policy-making machinery rather than generating newspaper headlines.
7. Plan next month's conference with military precision - it is easy to anticipate which of the fringe events will trigger negative news cycles, so prepare for that and develop a robust program of announcements, interviews, et cetera.
8. Quickly work out what your position is on fracking, the Miranda-gate affair, the zero hours contract scandal (Chuka was all over the place earlier this week). It might be too early for specific policies, but you need clear and concise "lines to take" on the big issues of the day - and it seems like you don't have this right now.
9. You also need a convincing narrative on the economy. Recent polls show that Cameron and Osborne are more trusted on this than you and Ed Balls. Your current narrative (the government is borrowing too much, but we would borrow more) is broken. You and your team need to welcome the recovery, such as it is, but explain what you would do NOW to make it stronger and more sustainable over the long-term.
10. Learn from the past: Tony Blair may have lost the popular touch he once had, but he won three elections for your Party in a row. Blair once said that your Party was at its best when it was being bold: get out there, put a stake in the ground, stand up for the underdog, show you have a plan, and that you're in charge.
Labour MPs may not have the stomach to give you the boot if things continue to drift (the Tories have always been more blood thirsty in Westminster), but the Unions will run out of patience soon. This is salvageable. But you need to get a grip - quickly.Suggest a correction