Coffee House

Ed Miliband needs a strategy more than he needs a makeover

15 May 2014

David Axelrod has parachuted into London to give Ed Miliband a ‘makeover’. Miliband needs all the foundation and blusher he can get; but a trip to the battleground in Newark might have been a more productive starting point for Axelrod: Labour’s greatest problem is its strategy, or lack of one.

Newark has huge significance for the Tories – a chance to recover from their likely drubbing at the local and European elections, an opportunity to put Ukip to the sword and a way to build momentum towards next year’s general election.


The party is well organised on the ground. A strong base of activists and councillors is operating out of five local campaign offices. The candidate, Robert Jenrick, has been working the constituency for the 6 months prior to Patrick Mercer’s resignation. Central office is closely engaged. Party Chairman Grant Shapps will lead a team of more than 200 to Newark on 31st May, six days before polling. Meanwhile, The Times reports that David Cameron has ordered every Conservative MP to visit the constituency three times. Nothing is being left to chance.

Compare this comprehensive operation with Labour’s strategy. Labour held Newark between 1997 and 2001. Patrick Mercer won the seat for the Tories in 2001 with a majority of 4,073, and increased his majority to 16,152 at the last election (when boundary changes made Newark a safe Tory seat). Labour’s by-election candidate is 25-year-old Michael Payne, a former student union politician and councillor – a biography that screams of ‘career politician in search of experience’. His adoption is a weak tactical ruse that is emblematic of Labour’s poor strategic thinking. Labour is ‘soft-pedalling’ in Newark in the hope that Ukip’s Roger Helmer upsets the Tories. But such an upset is unlikely (as Nigel Farage recognised). Our Evening Blend email last night calculated each party’s chances of victory as implied by bookies’ odds: Conservatives 63 per cent, Ukip 20 per cent, Labour 17 per cent. What is to be gained by giving Helmer an easy ride when the Tories appear to be capable of winning comfortably? Can a party that aspires to govern Britain risk finishing third, behind Ukip, in a strategically important by-election? These are pressing questions for Miliband, more pressing even than the seemingly insoluble problem of his appearance.

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  • andagain

    A 63% probability is hardly a foregone conclusion. From Millibands point of view, there is a good chance the Tories will be embarrassed. The question is: Why does Labour not want to be the people doing the embarrassing? They have as good a chance as UKIP, after all.

    I suppose they think that a UKIP victory would have a more damaging effect on Tory internal politics. Not many right-wingers will say that the Tories ought to move left if Labour win, but lots of them will shout and scream and say this proves they have to move right if UKIP win.

  • swatnan

    Ed needs a makeover like he needs a hole in the head.

  • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

    He will get in no problem. the Tories are dead.

  • @PhilKean1

    I have an equally pressing question.

    Who in their right minds would want to give advice to the most damaging political organisation Britain has ever known on how to improve their chances?

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    He’s made of plasticine, how hard can it be to make him over?

    • wycombewanderer

      Come on now he’s got telemachus on board, and his vote will swing literally millio,,,,,,,,,, oh hang on, no-one!

      • telemachus

        Mock not
        There are millions of us
        Remember the Tories need an 11% lead for a majority
        While I mock the Europe issue for before the election it will define the arrangements after
        In the unlikely scenario that there is not a reasonable majority, Cameron will not bed again with a party that will not deliver a referendum
        Miliband will take a pragmatic view and the Hughes Cable Liberal faction will bed with Miliband
        What a dream
        Think of it Hughes at Education, Burnham Health, Balls Chancellor, Yvette at Home and so on
        We will begin to live again

        • wycombewanderer

          “Think of it Hughes at Education, Burnham Health, Balls Chancellor, Yvette at Home and so on”

          So that’s lying hypocritical homophobia at education. holocaust at health, a car crash for the economy and an expesnses swindler in charge of law and order.

          The 11% outrage you admit to, was a reality in two and a half party politics it doesn’t work with four parties.

          • telemachus

            Wait until May 8th before spouting your uncertainty

            • wycombewanderer

              Talk us through the figures for labours VAT poster will you.

              Families paying more for vatable goods than they earn; that works.

              100 million for eds 48 hour pledge; debunked within mlinutes by the royal college saying it will cost 3 billion.

              Neither credible nor funny just assholes the lot of you, and it seems you didn’t bribe enough dole whallers last time to get you back into power becaue IDS is sanctioning you feckless retards!

              • telemachus

                No amount of ranting will negate the impact of a powerful party political broadcast

        • Inverted Meniscus

          No he is right. Your gibberish persuades nobody and your facile comments are merely an irritant. Nobody takes you seriously or your ridiculous puffing up of the dishonest scum that occupy the Labour front bench. Labour the party of lies, lying and liars.

          • Holly

            I don’t think he takes himself seriously.
            Not even a staunch Labour supporter respects or admires Miliband, or have they any confidence in his ability to take the leap from a student playing politics, to an adult mature enough to lead a conga, let alone a country.

            • telemachus

              The cry of those on the backfoot

          • telemachus

            If we irritate we are delighted
            We will tolerate when we rule

        • RavenRandom

          Ah you sad remora, spouting nonsense as usual. Say hello to your other sock puppet you_kid for me.

  • DWWolds

    I live in Nottinghamshire so, presumably, the leaflets the people of Newark have received for the local and EU elections will be the same as those that have landed through my mailbox. The Labour offering is just a regurgitation of the unworkable promises they have made nationally – freezing utility costs etc. – and their claims about the cost of living. Of their local and EU policies there is not even a mention so we must conclude that they do not have any. Perhaps it is no wonder then that a major portion of the front of their election brochure is taken up by a large photograph of a scared looking Milliminor.

    • HJ777

      They sound the same as the one I received in Berkshire.

      EU issues are hardly mentioned. They bang on about the “cost-of-living crisis” and the NHS. And that photo of Miliband on the front is enough to put anyone off.

      • ButcombeMan

        That must be the pattern nationwide, my Labour leaflet is the same.

        Not one word about WHY a Political Union with Europe, is something to be valued. It talks about almost everything BUT Europe.

        Since the debate is ABOUT, political union in the EU, (UKIP having made it that) the leaflet misses the point totally.

        Is this yet another mistake by wee Dougie?

        And Milliband having refused to debate the EU with Farage, there is just a vacuum where their policy should be.

        Axelrod has his work cut out to cure that.

        • Wessex Man

          Mine as well, it”s probably that mass printing is cheaper and they still think people who have voted for them in the past will just go ahead and vote for them again!

          • HJ777

            The printing is different since they have local candidates whose names are mentioned.

            They have just saved a few quid on the design/composition and obviously haven’t spent a penny or any time or thought on generating content.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Ditto. The usual socialist nuttery and lies with no mention of Europe.

      • DavidL

        Interesting. I haven’t received any Labour literature at all, and I live in a place where Labour is supposed to be defending both Council seats (and Overall control) and a European Parliament seat – for what that’s worth – and where they made a supreme effort to hold the Westminster seat – against the odds – in 2010. Maybe Labour really is financially, as well as intellectually, bankrupt.

        • DWWolds

          Mine arrived yesterday.

          • Conway

            Mine hasn’t got here yet. Can’t wait :)

    • Tony_E

      The problem with going out to county and rural constituencies and trumpeting the supposed value of the EU is that the locals already have the evidence right in front of them.

      Surrounded by farmland that grows Rapeseed oil rather than wheat or barley, inundated with eastern Europeans (who are nice enough folks in the main, but it’s a massive strain on local housing & services), and their areas not seeing any sign of the ‘economic recovery’ that is starting to be felt in the urban regions. They have long memories too, of the French blockading our beef from the continent, long after the BSE crisis had been solved.

      Go further out to the coastal towns and you see empty harbours that were once full of fishing boats, the decaying towns around them that recieved little or nothing from the regional development that was supposed to help them regenerate post fishing.

      And then look at your journey. One of the ‘richest’ countries in the world has a third world world road system, terrible in rural areas. VAT on vehicle repairs and fuel tax (yes, VAT is charged on the duty).

      Then ask them the question : What has the EU done for us?

      • DWWolds

        I began to realise the EU – or its predecessor – was a waste of space way back in 1983. On a visit to Brussels I noticed the phone boxes had carpet up the sides. Wasting money even then. In the same week – in Arnhem – I had to listen to Anna-Maj Wenger, then a Dutch MEP later a Dutch MP, lecture us on the need to support the CAP because it was a socio-economic policy. No mention of the wine lakes etc that existed around that time.

        In the 1990s I was at a meeting in Northern Germany when a leader of one of that country’s key industries told us that the Germans were not like the English. They did not believe in free trade. They believed in protecting their industries.

        More recently at a meeting in Finland one of the delegates from that country told me: “We have had a very deep political and philosophical discussion in the men’s sauna and guess what we decided? That the EU is like the Soviet Union and eventually, like the Soviet Union, it will collapse.”

        Some people seeing sense?

  • HJ777

    A strategy is just a plan for how you are going to achieve an objective – if you are going to win a General Election then people need to know what your objective is and they need to buy into it, or be persuaded to buy into it. Voters do not consider “winning a general election” to be an worthwhile objective. That’s what Labour wants, not what they want.

    If Miliband can’t or won’t set out his objectives then he can’t construct a meaningful strategy.

    • Holly

      Put like that, Miliband’s unfitness (is that a word?) to govern us makes perfect sense.

  • Patrick

    ..and he needs an economic policy even more than he needs a political strategy…

    • Conway

      No problem, he’s got Balls. Oh no, wait a minute …

  • Jock

    Is Labour’s lack of strategy unconnected to the Milliband problem? Can the first be remedied whilst the second remains in place?

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