British politics has been in flux since the formation of the coalition, with the political fortunes of the three major parties continuously fluctuating.
However, since the autumn of 2010, there has been one key prevailing norm within British politics, that being the way in which the Conservative Party; and the press, have by and large, but with the exception of Peter Oborne, continuously underestimated Ed Miliband's skills as leader of the Labour Party.
Ed Miliband is a particular kind of politician and person. It doesn't take a political expert to gauge that Ed is a very different kettle of fish to the Blairs, Daves (both Cameron and Miliband,) and Johnsons of this world; but there is a chance that he could be just as successful, if not more successful, than his more eye-catching and charismatic rivals.
Unless the Conservative Party wakes up to the true nature of Ed Miliband the man, his strengths and weaknesses, then there is a real possibility that the recent electoral results could translate into a commons majority. The time has come for the Conservative Party to take Ed Miliband very seriously indeed.
The key element of this argument is that Ed Miliband thrives off being the outsider and loves being underestimated; this plays to his strengths, allowing him to do what he does best, construct an insurgency campaign that resonates with those in society who feel themselves to be in a similar position. Though, of course, much of this underdog status comes from Ed taking a battering in personal opinion polls, where he is seen as a million miles away from being a prime minister in waiting, there is a very real possibility that those inflicting personal misery on Ed through their damning verdicts of his capacity to rule could swing behind him at a later date.
This would happen when they feel that, having inflicted on him record low approval ratings on him, the consequent pain he's gone through starts to make him seem closer to themselves, the voters, that to the coalition leadership. Ed Miliband, having been perceived as the second Miliband, and the second Ed to Balls, is experienced in playing to such audiences. From his selection as the Labour candidate for Doncaster North, to his election as Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband has shown the kind of resilience and a capacity to learn and evolve that should make our party fear him, perhaps even more than his brother.
If there is one thing the latest elections, both here, and in France demonstrate, it's that there is a very real chance that Labour could win a commons majority in 2015.
Moreover, Labour may do so because of Ed Miliband, not despite him. When Ed beat David in the leadership contest in September 2010, it didn't take long for the narrative to set in amongst some Conservatives that Labour had done us a favour and that they had elected the more beatable, less electorally appealing Miliband. Some argue that the one positive aspect of Labour's successes at the polls last Thursday is the fact that Ed is more likely to hang around longer, most likely leading his party into the 2015 general election.
Such a view is off the mark; Ed beat his brother because he outdid him strategically, doing what he needed to do to get across the line, just as he did to get selected as the Labour candidate for Doncaster North. The key with Ed is that he tends to be more layered than his opponents; being one of the most intellectually able leaders Labour have had in the post war era.
Either way, Ed Miliband's strategic skills, intellectual depth, resilience, and capacity to evolve will without doubt lead to a nuanced and coherent vision of where he wishes to take this country post-2015. However rough around the edges his conference speech was last September, as noted by Peter Oborne, the bottom line was that he was beginning to develop an overarching narrative. However flawed we Conservatives may think it is, come 2015, it is likely to be presented to the country in a much more coherent format. When the time comes, it's imperative that we have our own vision for our country to present to the people in the 2015 election, however challenging this may be for the party, it is absolutely essential.
Therefore, in the aftermath of the local elections, there are perhaps three key factors that we need to be aware of, and take seriously, if we are to handle the Labour threat more effectively in the future.
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that Labour is seeking to construct a narrative about how they can make Britain a better place and that our own is unclear. Secondly, the kind of Leader Ed Miliband is, in times of austerity, may be more of a threat to us than we first thought. Finally, the time has come to take him seriously because; by continuing to mock and ridicule him, we play into his hands. Whatever Ed Miliband's flaws, the British people love an underdog, especially when they feel like underdogs.