It’s not about you, Ed

7 January 2012

One thing you learn in life is that most people have no idea how they are perceived by
others. This is particularly true in Britain, where we don’t generally feel it is polite to tell people what we think of them. Politicians and public figures therefore find themselves in the
unusual position of having opinions about them shoved right in their faces. Maurice Glasman’s description of Ed Miliband as having ‘no strategy, no narrative and little energy’ must have been
deeply hurtful to the man who elevated a previously little-known academic to the House of Lords.

High-profile politicians must cauterise a certain part of their mind (or is it their soul?) in order to cope with the white noise of personal insult they have to endure. Most people would end up a
little odd as a result of this process and it is clear that many politicians start off odd from the outset.

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Which brings us back to Ed Miliband, a man who has been reminded of his geeky oddness on a minute-by-minute basis since he became Labour leader. The Labour leader’s fightback interview in the Guardian today is, in many ways, impressive. He is right to call Cameron
on his commitment to attacking crony capitalism and right to say the Labour Party must re-think its traditional economic strategy of ‘sharing the proceeds of growth’.

At times, Miliband shows an unusual degree of self-knowledge, recognising that it was an open-door approach to policy advice led him to embrace ‘interesting guys’ such as Maurice

But one answer to Patrick Wintour stands out. ‘You discover things about yourself in this job, which is that I am someone of real steel and grit’. This is just toe-curling and something
no one should ever say about oneself. People in positions of responsibility should never be allowed to tell others what they have discovered about themselves. I remember a senior news executive
prone to favouritism and vindictiveness who used to tell young reporters ‘the one thing you will find about me is that I am tough but fair’.

The point is that the political narrative has begun to fix on doubts about Ed Miliband’s leadership. This is not the moment for the Labour leader to share his view of his own capacities with
us. If there were no doubts he would not need to reassure us.

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Show comments
  • A leftie GP

    New to the site. Is martin a cameron man?

  • Amanda

    Salieri: So you’re not a fan, then.

    Archibald: Join the club of the disenchanted. Somehow we soldier on. I’m beginning to think that having readers who will put up with anything is a Spectator source of pride!

  • Jonty45

    From my rather basic knowledge of machinery Grit + Steel usually brings it to a grinding halt!

  • Ken

    @Steve: Given the size of Brown’s mega-mess, lets hope the Milliminor hangover period lasts decades.

  • Steve

    Ed was the fall guy to take Labour through the post Brown hangover.

  • salieri

    It was never likely that Mr. Ed’s performance on this morning’s ‘Today’ programme would win Coffee-Housers’ hearts and minds, or that his questioning would be thought incisive, but on the day billed as the occasion of a momentous speech the reality was by any standard remarkable: by turns petulant, evasive, mealy-mouthed, spineless, banal, juvenile, deluded, inane and platitudinous, the man wears his lack of substance, his lack of foresight and his self-serving distortion of the past with conceit and plain stupidity. If there was any grit or self-awareness here it was well disguised. This was not ‘zen-like calm’. It was the silence of a zombie.

  • Old Slaughter

    “steel and grit”

    It’s time for the quiet man to speak up.


  • Sir Graphus

    Milliband thinks it’s all about him, because it is. Ed was elected by the unions, while the people he has to work with, plus the people he’s expecting to go canvassing, wanted David. Therefore everything he does is to convince those people that he’s the man. However, the fact this takes such obvious effort ironically makes the exercise entirely counterproductive, merely serving to emphasize his lack of authority and popularity.

    I wish I had a solution to the downward spiral, but then again I don’t.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Shinsei67 : 11.13am

    You’re at least 50 years out of date. These days, reputations are not founded on performance, character or achievement, but on what the propagandists wish to promote. Nine people out of ten do not make up their minds from facts or personal observation, but from the ready-made opinions foisted on them by the collectives to which they belong.

  • Archibald

    This site is getting beyond useable. What is going on? I made a comment last night that hasn’t come through, you have my email, I can’t begin to see anything remotely rude or offensive about it so I assume your site is letting you down yet again, but perhaps you can have an automated system that emails when a comment is made and accepted so you know it has actually worked, or indeed emails if it breaks any ‘rules’, of which I’m 99.999999% sure I have not.

  • Jeremy

    Martin Bright:

    “…white noise…”

    Oh, clever Diane Abbott! Cunning Diane Abbott! Deliberately omitting the word “Some” in order to flush out people like yourself. We have noted your use of language, Martin Bright, and we now know what you are. And we know that you know that we know, you know.

    This has been the voice of The Mysterons.

  • disenfranchised

    i don’t think i’ve ever heard anyone in politics describe themselves as being of real steel and grit, and coming from an individual like milibean it’s nothing but comical.
    one has to feel pity for the lad…..

  • Erica Blair

    Martin ‘Likudnik’ Bright should stick to his full-time job – witch-hunting Muslims and Jews who are critical of Israel.

    Leave the Ed-bashing to the other useful idiot Dan Hodges.

  • Austin Barry

    ‘You discover things about yourself in this job, which is that I am someone of real steel and grit’.

    Oh dear, it’s even worse than I thought, the guy is clearly bonkers.

  • Shinsei67

    What is it with Labour leaders that they feel they have to tell us how great they are:

    “ordinary kind of guy” Blair

    “moral compass”. Brown

    “steel and grit”. Milliband

    If you genuinely possess these qualities then we’ll notice them. Otherwise it just looks like arrogance.

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