Friday, 4 October 2013

Miliband Miliband Miliband

Looking at this whole miserable mess in a detached manner, it's actually been very good for Miliband (Ed edition - see what I did there?).  He's managed to completely trump the Toery party conference, and build on a robust, crowd-and-voter-pleasing speech at his own shindig.  Best of all, he's been able to do it without seeming to be trying to do it.  If he'd loudly announced free jam for every one just as Cameron took the stage, he'd have looked like a cynical opportunist and people would - quite rightly - have asked why he hadn't bothered to mention this during his own conference.

And he's been attacked - through his dead war veteran dad - by the Daily Mail, so he can only look good as a result, the way we tend to not condemn Stalin as much as we should because he was on the side of decency against Hitler.  Anyone been excoriated by the Daily Mail probably deserves the benefit of the doubt - Mark Duggan and Stephen Lawrence's killers being the exceptions that prove the rule.

Miliband has had a chance to look tough and forthright, and has managed to not sound whiny about this.  He's been angry, but not self-pitying.  He's managed to link the mess to a wider narrative - the nastiness and unscrupulousness of some parts of the press, and the concentration of media in the hands of a few self-interested rightwing moguls.  And he's won sympathy from the sort of people who start sentences by saying, "I've been a lifelong Tory voter ..."

Even better, his rivals have been flat-footed.  Cameron and the other Tory heavyweights have been silent, making them seem to be endorsing the Mail's repugnant behaviour.  Nick Clegg is the only senior member of the coalition to unequivocally condemn the Mail.  True, some of the old sticks have spoken out from the comparative safety of the Lords - but as Polly Toynbee points out, it is easy to risk your political career when it is essentially over.

As for the Mail, it has been a disastrous misjudgement. They've made Miliband far more human and likeable than he was a week ago, raised his profile immensely, made themselves look truly hateful and unintentionally demonstrated why we need to reform and strengthen the way the British press is regulated.

What were they thinking?

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