Last year Ed Miliband called for Rebekah Brooks to resign. At the time it seemed like a high risk manouvre – albeit the right thing to do – but quickly the narrative became established that Brooks was too tarnished to hold on.
The same is now happening with Bob Diamond and Barclays. It’s hunting season.
Miliband is driving the agenda again, and he has the establishment on the run.
The always insightful James Forsyth wrote yesterday in the Mail that Diamond made a ”job saving” call to Miliband last week to try and win the support of the Labour leader. He was blatantly unsuccessful. In speeches on Thursday at Unite conference and on Saturday to the Fabians Ed ramped up his rhetoric on the banks and fleshed out the extent to which he believes that the banks need to change. This morning on Daybreak he went one step further, saying:
“I think there needs to be more a more general change of leadership including the chief executive, Bob Diamond.”
Ed and his team are now back into the rythmn that worked so well last year, and will exploit the PM’s weakness once again. Day by day the drumbeat builds – first saying that the banks need to change, then outlining how – and urging changes at the top of the banks. Today, he calls for Diamond to go. Tomorrow, should Diamond still be in a job, he’ll ask why Diamond is still in post. And on Wednesday he’ll box the Prime Minister in at PMQs, and ask if he’ll join him in calling for for Diamond’s resignation too.
The Prime Minister will be trapped by his own inaction, will be forced to choose between defending a discredited banking mogul or backing Miliband’s call to action. Questions will be asked about why the PM has spent so much time contemplating an EU referendum when he should have been tackling the banking crisis unfolding on his doorstep. The answer of course is that the Tory Right have boxed him in too. All of a sudden Fraser Nelson’s comments about the PM and his Chancellor appearing not to consider themselves in charge appears all the more credible.
So far, then, so good – and Ed Miliband deserves credit for his handling of another unfolding collapse in Britain’s establishment. But what Ed needs to start doing now is looking ahead.
Although the LIBOR scandal – like the News of the World scandal – will likely define how his leadership is viewed in the country, and boost his already considerable momentum going into the summer, the true test of his leadership will be if he can identify these crises in advance, and speak out on them before they explode in the lap of the government. That is the true measure of leadership, and what is needed if Labour forms the next government – a leader willing to make the big changes when they aren’t presented to him, and who can show this level of bravery when he doesn’t have the wind behind him. The squeezed middle was a good start, but future interventions will need to be more specific.
But for now, the wind is certainly blowing in his direction, and the following winds will surely force another change of direction from the PM, just as surely as the turbulent seas will soon sink Bob Diamond.
And then Ed can lift his eyes to scan the horizon for the next storm.