Normally I get annoyed when Ed Miliband stays quiet and allows the Ed-Mili vacuum to open up. I’ve said that spending time out of the political limelight allows the space to be “filled with all sorts of political detritus”. And although many argue – plausibly – that Ed Miliband’s leadership ratings are a problem, and even potentially a hypothetical “drag” on Labour’s poll lead, it also seems to be the case that when Ed goes AWOL, the Tories get a boost in the polls.
That’s what has started to happen this week. All of the talk is about the reshuffle, and Ed Miliband is nowhere to be seen (until PMQs this afternoon of course, and a major interview which comes out later today/tomorrow), and I’ve had several people ask me where on earth Ed is.
And that’s a good question., but on this occasion, I think he’s right to be quiet. Here’s why:
When your opposition are killing each other, get out of the way. The reshuffle won’t keep everyone happy. In time it may prove to be a reshuffle which has kept no-one happy. It’s a rightwards lurch that has given some troubling people promotions, but at the same time hasn’t provided enough “red meat” for the Tory Right, who by now have a taste for blood. Meanwhile, Lib Dems are beginning to openly muse over whether this reshuffle proves that the coalition isn’t working. The reshuffle will causes spats aplenty, and Ed Miliband is right to stay above that fray, which leads me to…
Never shoot down, as Richard Nixon famously said. Ed Miliband could have gone on the warpath over the unsuitability of Hunt – for example – but that would be beneath a future Prime Minister (except perhaps in the knockabout of PMQs). Leave that to those whose job it is to attack the opposition, and make sure Ed does what he’s yet to do – set out an alternative governing vision.
We’ve in the political twilight zone. We’re currently sandwiched between silly season and conference season, with parliament returning for a matter of weeks before politicians decamp to various different parts of the country to applaud each other. The paralympics are still going on. Nothing of note is likely to happen in the next few weeks – so keeping the powder dry, riding out the Tory conference poll surge and focussing on his conference speech should be Miliband’s priorities. Because that speech really needs to establish him in the country at large – that’s the only task that’s important for the next few weeks.
And besides, it’s PMQs today – and Ed has plenty to go on…