I’m pleased to say another contributor to the world of information has been filtered out for my entirely less qualified attention. Jonathan Freedland is to be the third writer under the microscope, although only after some deliberation, as Caitlin Moran was making a strong case for inclusion in this journalistic canon just the other day, with a piece ranging from the role of art in society to the effects of modern pornography on young sexual expectations.
Freedland edged the focus of this article by a nose however, given the combined events of today’s Prime Minister’s Questions and an article in the Huffington Post looking at Ed Miliband’s new Reaganesque angle of attack. The lead question from the opposition leader echoed that of the Republican icon in his day, “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”. These things are pertinent to Freedland’s recent article, asking what kind of leader will Miliband be.
A brief introduction though. Freedland is a regular contributor to the Guardian, like Jenkins, and also the New York Times, but with a more political focus and journalistic style. A bit less inclined to offer personal thoughts on a given issue than that other monolith of opinion, he is more likely to drive the cognitive gears by framing a discussion. Jenkins generally achieves this with a stronger position put forward for dissection and potential objection.
As to the aforementioned discussion of Miliband’s character of leadership, he actually puts things in more specific terms. “Will Ed Miliband be an Obama or Hollande?”, he asks. The question boils down to the potential manner in which Ed may one day ascend to power; with dynamic, inspiring visions of change, or quietly and inevitably on the back of repetitive Tory failings and subsequent dissatisfaction? I think today’s PMQ’s was a further hint of which.
From my perspective, Miliband has thus far been firmly camped out in the Hollande corner, and not to repeat the statements of several previous articles I shall only here label him the… endless font of condemnation not cut with a shred of evident constructive thinking. This from the alleged ideas man of the Labour Party. Perhaps as Freedland indicates, it has simply been far too difficult to resist the regular temptations of steady government incompetence.
Despite Miliband’s efforts in the Commons today, challenging Cameron on that issue of the voter’s changing fortunes, the Prime Minister had just enough politically viable defence at hand to resist. But his closing remarks to his assailant were something of a PMQ’s knockout, as he told the House of Miliband’s “major speech on the economy”. A speech, he gleefully added, which contains no new policy initiatives. Queue the Tory benches going ballistic.
This somewhat laughable omission would be damaging enough to the idea that the Labour Party are offering a reasonable alternative, but the matter is compounded by the manner in which the man was on the assault today. It was over two years ago that the media had put the notion that Ed could be Ed to the sword, his early tenure being veritably riddled with satire. It was, in all serious terms, quite hard to take him seriously.
Last year it seems that various oscillations of personal image management finally stabilised to some degree, as with the “One Nation” party conference speech he attempted statesmanship. Aside from famously pinching the central theme of that speech from famed Conservative Disraeli, it was only otherwise notable for painfully lacking in policy and detail. Worse however, it was the beginning of his steady evolution into a 19th Century style of barracker in the Commons.
But “One Nation” hasn’t made much of an appearance since early after the conference, and with his recent channeling of energy into the Reagan Question, it seems he is transforming yet again. Sadly for the state of healthy opposition, it is a transformation of image only and from Ed to Benjamin to Ronald the only consistent thing about Miliband and company is a lack of substance from the Labour front bench.
Freedland is right to indicate that Miliband’s tone of leadership will be more important come election time, and with a sustained healthy lead over the Tories in the polls, thanks to their masochistic tendencies, it can even be said he has no immediate reason to fill that void of usefulness. One can only hope that there is at least a semblance of a plan being squirreled away somewhere though, as an economically rudderless Labour government is a scary prospect.
I could easily be sold on a truly progressive and realistic agenda set out by Labour, admittedly due heavily to present disenfranchisement with the government, but that is not looking likely to appear from this set-up. Frankly the idea of Miliband conjuring a fervour comparable to Obama is a fantasy, with or without policy. But as Hollande aptly proved, and as the Tories are currently adding truth to the fact, all it takes is a really, really unpopular incumbent.
Earlier on in this government I had privately written off Miliband as a caretaker leader, possibly not even set to face a single general election. But Freedland’s article has reminded me of that slightly grim fact. In my defence, back then I could never have anticipated the scope of Tory blundering that led to his ascendancy. Prime Minister Miliband? Too much of a mouthful for me, but I’m not actually partisan… I just want someone to offer something truly appealing.