THE Not So Secret Diary of Ed Miliband, aged 42¾.
Friday, May 27: Brilliant week. Upset the Tories, claimed a scalp (OK, just a lackey – for now!), and scooted home in time to read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists to the kids (rather juvenile, and not a patch on The Gruffalo for outlining socialism's place in a globalised econosphere, but hey-ho). At times like these I remember why I wanted to become Labour leader. Take that with jam on, big bruv!
How typical of Britain's negative mindset that the focus this week should have been on the woes of a struggling Prime Minister rather than the rejuvenation of Ed Miliband's leadership. It began quietly, as is Mr Miliband's way, with a recognition that some people had trouble seeing him as prime ministerial material. He might not be flash, was the gist, but he was "methodical" and "rigorous". Pity this made him sound more like a loo cleaner than a head of HM Government in waiting, but rebranding can be tricky.
Not a mouse stirred at his declaration. At this point, luckily for Mr Miliband, a basic rule of politics kicked in. As in elections, opposition leaders do not win the public's trust and affection, governments lose them. What a spectacular effort David Cameron's administration has been making on that front, with first the Budget debacle and now the Culture Secretary calamity. Jeremy Hunt is just the latest, of course, to be struck by what non-medical experts know as three wise monkeys syndrome.
How curious, for example, that when Mr Cameron and James Murdoch met at Rebekah Brooks's Christmas bash, Mr Murdoch recalls speaking about the BSkyB bid, but Mr Cameron says he has never had one "inappropriate conversation" on the matter. Perhaps there was a commotion going on in the background which made communication difficult. Can't have been easy for Santa inching his way down the chimney with a retired Met police horse in his sack.
Similarly, Mr Hunt appears to have employed a special adviser yet failed to take any notice of what the adviser was doing. Hear no intrigue, see no intrigue, speak no apology.
It was at this point, after his deputy Harriet Harman led the way, that Mr Miliband remembered it was his job to kick the Tories when they were down. True, he wasn't terribly impressive at Prime Minister's Questions but he didn't have to be. Over at the Leveson Inquiry, Murdoch Jr was doing the Labour leader's job for him.
Mr Miliband even managed to blame the Tories for the double-dip recession and seem convincing. This, in time, could prove to be more significant than any amount of tussling over who said what to whom over canapés. The public adopts a plague on all their houses approach when it comes to politicians fraternising with the media. They don't like it, but they are about as shocked by it as they are at seeing the sun come up in the morning. What they do care about is the security of their jobs and homes. By blaming the current Government for the recession, Mr Miliband makes the previous administration, of which he was a member, look less culpable. Clever boy.
Which brings us to the next reason why Mr Miliband should be looking cheerful – next week's local elections. Here, though, it's a mixed picture. Voters are certainly scunnered with the Coalition but this could manifest itself in several ways, not all of them favourable to Mr Miliband.
In London, the politician suffering most from the tax avoidance row is Labour's Ken Livingstone. Who says history has no sense of humour? Latest opinion polls show Boris Johnson anywhere between two and 10 points ahead of red-faced Ken. Barring a turnaround, Mr Miliband, having backed Mr Livingstone when he looked like a winner, better have his excuses ready.
Across the rest of the country, voters are in the mood not to so much chide the Liberal Democrats as eviscerate them. LibDem MPs, already rattled about their prospects at the next General Election, will react to this in the time-honoured fashion of blaming the leader and pressing him to wrest more concessions from the Tories. Memo to Mr Clegg: no-one outside Westminster gives a flying ermine robe about Lords reform. If that's your big, election-winning idea, tell the LibDem lads and lassies to start sending out their CVs now.
An ever-more fractious Coalition Government, with disgruntled MPs airing their grievances in the press, will be good for Mr Miliband. If nothing else it will make Labour MPs, keen to look united in contrast, stop questioning if he is the one to lead them into the election.
Then we come to Scotland, the land that gave Labour its foremost founding father, that has voted Labour into government time and again. Though cowards flinched and traitors sneered, Scotland kept the red flag flying here.
That was then. Today, Mr Miliband's pals in the north can no longer be relied upon. When your Scottish leader, Johann Lamont, kicks off her party's campaign by predicting that the SNP will end up with more seats, something rum is afoot. Charles II had it that the kingdom would crumble if the ravens left the Tower of London. No-one is entirely sure what will happen if Labour loses Glasgow to the SNP next Thursday, but the fates will surely rustle up something suitably impressive. A total eclipse, say. Failing that, a shower of Tunnock's teacakes or some other biblical-style occurrence.
Scottish Labour, like the London mayoral election, like his party's fight back in general, is very much a work in progress for Mr Miliband. He might have more weeks like this one, but he cannot count on them. At least in Scotland, however, there's the hint, the merest suggestion, of those green shoots of political recovery.
It is not much to shout about, but First Minister's Questions this week, full of sound and fury as it was, should give Mr Miliband cause to cheer the party's selection of Johann Lamont as leader. The First Minister, like the Prime Minister, was not having the best of days. His turbines were turning very slowly indeed. Ms Lamont, in contrast, was alive with indignation over what she called the FM's "infatuation" with rich men such as Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Fred Goodwin. Is it the case, she asked, that rather than being a statesman, Mr Salmond was just a sucker? It was brutal, but effective. Sometimes opposition has to be. Note that in your diary, Mr Miliband.
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