THE BLOG

Miliband, the Media and Fixed-Term Parliaments

13/11/2014 15:05 GMT | Updated 13/01/2015 10:59 GMT

No-one is short on an opinion about Ed Miliband and the way that he is leading the Labour Party. After the media storm at the weekend about a plot to oust him, things have gone quieter but the media are still desperate to see leadership blood.

It is not possible to tell, at the moment, if a plot against Miliband ever existed outside of a few media briefings. This is often the case with political stories that they rely on a few, sometimes less, 'well placed' but unattributable sources.

Actually, the alleged coup says more about the way that political parties and the media operate in a fixed term Parliament.

In pre-fixed term Parliament times, we would have had an election by now. The upturn in the economic figures before the summer could have been used to trigger the election and UKIP might not have had enough time to build on their Euro success. Labour still wasn't doing that well in the polls and the Lib Dems were teetering so Cameron could well have taken the decision to go to the country.

But he couldn't so the media need political stories to write about in a quiet period. The election proper is still six months away, the party conferences are over and Parliament has little to do. That made the apparent inability of the Conservatives to organise a vote on the European Arrest Warrant even more newsworthy.

Post the Rochester and Strood by-election the media may have a genuine leadership story on their hands. Labour in modern times has always stood by its leaders, the Conservatives have felt no such qualms. However, even here you need someone to stand. Is anyone serious likely to step forward or will the media rely on sources? Will the party need another Sir Anthony Meyer to soften Cameron so that the big-hitters can enter the frame?

We now have a series of stories about how a couple of senior figures in the Labour Party are giving less than fulsome and wholehearted support for Miliband. However, this is not contrasted with the support he does have. In stating that he does not want to be Labour leader, Alan Johnson praised Miliband's courage, others too strenuously support Miliband deny the plot story.

Miliband relies too heavily on making speeches. Mark Ferguson writing for LabourList is right in pointing to this as something that Miliband needs to change if he is to 'kick-start' his leadership. Yes, such speeches have the benefit of allowing him to explore issues in detail and showing that he really is on top of them but no-one is listening. The audience is made up of the committed. The emails go around asking people if they are available to attend and he receives a warm round of applause. A few questions at the end, mainly from a couple of media, and then it is all over. It also reinforces the geeky image.

Instead the emphasis needs to be on giving the media some stories and this means varying the types of communications used. Labour need to give the media new angles rather than allowing them the space to go hunting.

Taking the fight out to the people through the wider might be one way of doing this - a bit of old-fashioned activism. That places Miliband's US adviser, Arnie Graf, potentially right at the heart of the campaign. The general consensus is that the public don't like 'ya-boo' politics but they do want their politicians to stand for something. They like the idea of politicians working together yet seem attracted by parties that have, at least at moment, little chance of working with others. They like the idea of politics being in some way exciting and motivating.

Social media too can play a role but it takes time to build momentum it cannot suddenly be unveiled just a few months out from the general election.

The more that Miliband can show feed the media the better. Their emphasis may shift to Cameron if UKIP wins Rochester and Strood but that cannot be taken for granted.

We all need to get used to how fixed term Parliament working and what it really means for politics.