Ed Miliband’s admirers are hailing his speech on Friday as an attempt to change how we think about leadership. It might have been that, but it was also a very political attempt to deal with the ‘Ed problem’, the fact that he trails David Cameron in the leadership stakes by a potentially fatal margin.
There is huge frustration in Miliband’s circle that, as one puts it, voters say that they don’t like spin and then say they won’t vote for Ed as he’s bad at it. But for all Miliband’s decrying of modern politics emphasis on presentation, he has—at times—tried to play the image game just as hard as any other politician. At last year’s Labour conference, a photographer was invited into the Milibands’ hotel suite to snap them embracing and relaxing after his speech. Having done that, this speech looks like it was made—as one Labour figure tells me—‘out of necessity rather than choice’, lessening its impact.
But Miliband is keen to keep going with this agenda. This morning, he announced that he wants to introduce a Public Question Time to go alongside PMQs. Now, I struggle to see how this would work in practical terms and it smacks of the worst kind of New Labour gimmickery. But it does, though, reflect the Labour leadership’s view that the best way to present Miliband is in conversation with regular people. So, expect to see lots more of him out and about taking questions from the public in the months ahead.