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This Election's Big Surprise: Ed Miliband

05/05/2015 15:50 BST | Updated 04/05/2016 10:12 BST

For years Ed Miliband came across as a deeply awkward politician. Now, in the final weeks of his long five-year wait for a general election, at the time when you'd think he would most tense and anxious of all, he has suddenly relaxed. It is an astonishing transition.

What's changed is his face. Most of the grief he had in the past was because his face was, frankly, all over the place. It didn't quite work. But now he's more relaxed, particularly his smile, and the package seems more attractive as a result. Little things like the way he leans on the podium and his eye contact when he's talking make him come across as more fluid and more fluent than we've seen in the past.

When people are a little nervous they talk in a static, withdrawn manner. The Labour leader used to be like that, but now when he talks he's attacking the space around him. He leans forward and sucks in the oxygen from the room. That's a measure of a man who seems to be confident about what he's doing. He's not pushing as hard when he speaks, either - he just leans in and says what he has to say. There's no need to oversell it because he doesn't have to.

All this means Miliband is projecting a very different side of himself - just at the time when voters start paying attention. His ability to connect with the electorate seems to have suddenly increased dramatically.

It's an emotional thing. There's a psychological switch in his head that made him suddenly think 'I'm enjoying this, I'm relishing it'. When he gets off the battle bus and smiles at a group of hen-night females, his body is following his mind. He's remembering how well he's done in the debates, of how complimentary the press are being, and thinking 'hey, I am a prime minister after all'. All of a sudden he even seems quite good-looking - you can see what Stephanie Flanders saw in him. This wasn't something out of Wallace and Gromit any more - this was a man with come-to-bed eyes. It's a virtuous circle of recovery.

It helps, too, that the other party leaders - with the exception of the articulate and polished Nicola Sturgeon - are having mediocre campaigns. Nigel Farage has gone off the boil. Natalie Bennett lacks charisma. Nick Clegg just gets people wondering what the point of him is. David Cameron is being consistent, hammering away steadily at his economy message, but not without being able or willing to show any real passion. Ed Miliband's "hell yeah" moment connected with voters far more effectively.

These skills were always there - you can't run a party if you're a completely damp squib. What Miliband's achieved in this campaign is finding a way of selling policy, ideas and a vision. People have stopped spending time focusing on Ed Miliband the man and are instead listening to what he has to say. It's been a remarkable turnaround - and makes him a far more plausible prime minister than he's ever been before.

Nick Smallman is chief executive of communications training firm Working Voices