Could “Everyman Ed” replace “Red Ed”?

January 31, 2013 1:11 pm

This morning Ed Miliband wrote a piece for The Sun. That’s a point that’s worth noting on its own. The Labour Leader hasn’t written for (and has had little to do with) The Sun since the phone hacking scandal erupted nearly two years ago.

Whilst writing for a Murdoch paper isn’t (on its own) enough to anger some senior figures in the party (as it was when Maurice Glasman tried to write a column for the Sun on Sunday), it’s still a bit of a leap of faith for the Labour Leader, considering the bias in their reporting and their barely disguised dislike of the man.

But disliking a politician doesn’t mean you can ignore him. As David Cameron’s limited EU bounce dissipates, boundary changes are consigned to the dustbin of history, the government confirms its incompetence, the economy tanks and the Tory Party braces itself for its next internal row (Gay Marriage, if you were wondering) – even The Sun must realise that Ed Miliband becoming Britain’s next Prime Minister is not out of the question.

And The Sun are nothing if not pragmatic. It was never “The Sun Wot Won It” (don’t believe the hype) but they’re usually good at predicting how the dice will fall come Election Day.

But for Miliband to be accepted by the paper that lambasted him as “Red Ed“, he’ll need to present himself in a different way. Could “Everyman Ed” be the framing he needs?

Sure, it seems like a long shot for a cardigan wearing, Fabian pamphlet reading, Rubik’s cube solving self-confessed nerd to be accepted as an Everyman. Add onto that the lifetime in politics and the period as a lecturer at Harvard (not to mention being raised by Marxists) and the proposition begins to seem highly unlikely indeed.

And yet – being an Old Etonian, PR man, multi-millionaire (and horse riding with Rebekah Brooks) didn’t stop Cameron from rolling out the “Call Me Dave” schtick.

Today’s Sun piece is an example of what Everyman Ed might look like. The focus is on apprenticeships, the “forgotten 50%” who don’t go to University and the need to include everyone – not just people with educations like Ed Miliband’s – in the economy and the recovery. It’s all very One Nation, and also has some genuine policy meat too. Expanding the UCAS university application service to include apprenticeships and job applications is an eminently smart idea and avoids the cliff edge of young people going from full-time education straight into unemployment.

Most of the focus though is on apprenticeships. Miliband argues that a huge project like HS2 should produce 33,000 new apprenticeships. Compared to the number started last year in the country as a whole (a frankly pathetic 49,700) that’s a laudable aim.

But if Ed wants to be an Everyman, he needs to think like someone outside of the Westminster bubble. “Experts” may well say that a £33 billion contract should produce at least 33,000 apprenticeships, but to the average Sun reader, one apprenticeship per million pounds spent is going to sound pretty small fry.

Ed and those around him are beginning to talk the talk (I never thought I’d see an Ed Miliband article that talked about “the relegation zone”) but if he really wants to be an Everyman, appeal to the (somewhat mythical) ‘man on the street’ and stop being seen as a wonk, he needs to stop thinking like a wonk too.

Today was a good start. But the problem with Ed Miliband has never been the ideas, but the size of the ambition. Next month we should see a fleshing out of Labour’s plan to reshape the economy, perhaps even moving beyond “too far too fast”. Ed Miliband should invert that mantra when it comes to his own plans.

In he truly wants to rebuild Briain, then should be going further, and faster.

  • http://twitter.com/KulganofCrydee Kulgan of Crydee

    Just watched Ed’s PPB online, well I say PPB it was actually all about Ed & nothing about the party or its’ policies. It as cringe worthy & yes, humourous but only because it is so bad. I would laughed just as hard if any other leader had done it. Could ‘Everyman Ed’ replace ‘Red Ed’? The answer is NO. The people know Ed’s background. We know he went to school with Boris Johnson before the comprehensive. We know he is a millionaire living in a house worth £2m plus. The PPB was a total waste of money if it was to try & make Ed seem more of a man of the people. If you want our votes, stop telling us what Coalition (or Tory-Led) gov are doing wrong, give us an alternative tell us what Labour would do.

    • postageincluded

      Not sure why Ed’s primary school should be an issue for you. His parents could hardly prevent Boris Johnson attending Primrose Hill, much as they may have wanted to.

      • http://twitter.com/KulganofCrydee Kulgan of Crydee

        Well he was going on about his comprehensive education yet failed to mention that little gem of information, for obvious reasons. I agree, children cannot help where their parents send them to school so surely ALL parties should not try & use this for political advantage as they currently do.

        • postageincluded

          In what sense is this a “gem”? His parents may have been Marxists, but they would have had to be pretty extreme to screen the local primary school for toffs before sending their kids there. And why exactly should a politician not talk about his life and experiences? Methinks thou dost protest too much.

          • http://twitter.com/KulganofCrydee Kulgan of Crydee

            Everyone is of course entitled their own opinion. Ed is the one making the fuss about his education, not me.

      • Amber_Star

        The bit about BJ made me LOL!

  • AlanGiles

    Writing for the Sun “newspaper” makes anyone look desperate. I suppose Big Brother told him how lucrative it can be though.

    • John Ruddy

      How about trying to reach out to some of those 3 million readers – how about trying to give them a different point of view to the one peddled by Murdoch? Or are you happy to consign them to the dustbin and write them off?

    • Brumanuensis

      I have to agree with John on this point, Alan. We can’t afford to ignore the readers of the Sun; the editors of the paper are a different matter.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Can people who buy the Sun read silently without pointing at words with their fingers and moving their lips? Can they? Is that really true? Crikey! Eeek.

      • AlanGiles

        There would only be three ways to catch the attention of Sun readers:

        1) Land a starring role in a TV soap opera

        2) Be romantically linked with Kerry Katona or Lady Gaga

        or 3) Pose topless on page 3 with pouting be-lipsticked mouth. And if he thought that would guarantee him the keys to No 10 I wouldn’t put that past him! :-)

        • Brumanuensis

          I appreciate that readers of ‘The Sun’ are not the most intellectual bunch, but a lot of them are Labour voters. Almost as many Labour ‘loyalists’ – i.e. who voted Labour in 2010 – read the Mail, Sun, Star, Express or Telegraph as do the Guardian / Mirror (29% – 31%). I don’t like newspaper, but not everyone reads the Mail or the Sun because they agree with its politics. A lot of Mail readers – most I’d even venture – read it for the fluff about celebrities (see the ‘Sidebar of Shame’) and don’t really venture into the opinion pages. Moreover, a lot of Labour voters have fairly reactionary views on certain topics like Europe and immigration. This isn’t an excuse to indulge them, but it’s something we have to be mindful of when making the case for a Labour government.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I occasionally take a look at the Sun in the staff room. I find the most intellectual editorial comment to be on Page 3, where the ladies are now (apparently) coming up with some concise thoughts on a pressing political issue of the day, instead of merely telling the viewer of her chest measurement. This is progress it seems, but whether of feminism or of clever marketing I do not know**.

            ** Well, I have my suspicions that it is the marketing department. I am personally unlikely to be convinced by the short little message about an EU Referendum or whatever else attributed to the lady of that day by the Sun, but perhaps I am not the Sun’s target demographic.

          • Brumanuensis

            Nonsense Jamie. Those fine young ladies are entirely responsible for all the, er, content on that page. Politics included. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that you could think otherwise.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            At least I do read the short little political comment. It is “multi-tasking” with the other duties my eyes have on the Page 3.

            (I have a feeling that my attempt at some humour will not work so much on this comment. But I do not feel so embarrassed – it is a normal reaction)

        • Chilbaldi

          4) print lies about the Hillsborough disaster

  • Amber_Star

    @ Mark You have a typing error: “..considering the bias in their reporting and their barely disguised [dis]like of the man.”

  • Paddy Briggs

    I saw Ed at the recent Fabian annual conference. Found his prepared speech OK (good content) but a trifle wonkish and dull. But handling questions he blossomed. I think that people will relate to him – just needs to find a way.

  • Amber_Star

    @ Mark
    I thought from your qualified support of the blue Labour themes that you were delighted about Ed M realising: Britain is conservative in a small c way; therefore promising changes too far & too fast would scare the electorate.

    I’ll also mention something Ed M said a while ago. He was planning to “under-promise & over-deliver”. Vote blue Labour get Red Ed? Probably not but we’re allowed to dream aren’t we?

    Moving along, Everyman Ed; I don’t think so. ‘Call me Dave’ was about Cameron being a ‘lad’, which the Bullingdons surely are in the worst sense of the word. ‘Clegg over’ was a similar theme. No big stretch of the imagination was required in either case. But regarding Ed: He is not plain spoken, he is not just folks, we should not act like he is (I bet you will recognize that misquote, Mark).

    • Chilbaldi

      Agree somewhat. It’s quite clear that Ed isn’t the charismatic, sweeps the electorate off their feet kind of politician. When people try to pretend that he is, or worse when people try to get Ed to act that way, it’s a bit cringeworthy.

      However, if you dont speak to people in normal, emotional terms you’ll lose. There is a middle ground between ‘everyman’ and ‘wonk’.

      • http://twitter.com/davidwardsays David Ward

        Isn’t there a paradigm here in Harold Wilson? He made a big play of being a big brainbox with a double first in economics and a mastermind war planner. And being from a fairly normal background in comparison to the fourteenth earl.

  • postageincluded

    Looking up the Sun article I came across another from last year that referred to him as “Wonky Ed Miliband”. I sure this was a blunder by the Sun editorial team as I’ve found that “wonk” doesn’t mean much as a term of abuse outside political circles. So no insult intended to Sun readers but I suspect that a lot of them thought “wonky” referred to his broken nose.

  • http://twitter.com/LouieWoodall Louie Woodall

    Oi- What’s wrong with reading Fabian Pamphlets?

    • MonkeyBot5000

      They inhibit your ability to properly capitalize words.

      It also encourages you to buy in to their nonsense instead of thinking for yourself. The same applies to any “think” tank. Ask yourself if you want to be useful to the Fabian society or useful to your community.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

        Or you can join your local Fabian society and bring your local perspective forward – I think we need to carry on thinking and the Fabians do it well, without being sectarian within the party

  • Brumanuensis

    “Add onto that the lifetime in politics and the period as a lecturer at Harvard (not to mention being raised by Marxists)”

    Raised by Marxists? It makes the Miliband brothers sound like a sort of left-wing version of Romulus and Remus.

  • RosasDaughter

    Mildly macho posturing for a sexist Murdoch newspaper won’t cut it. ‘Everyman Ed’ needs to recognise that it’s women and girls suffering most under current cuts to benefits and jobs. He needs not just to recognise it, but give a damn about it and speak out. He needs to care that UK women are under sustained attack unprecedented in modern times. He and Labour’s other leaders seem to assume they need do nothing and women will vote Labour as the least worst option. Not so. The party that develops a strategy for women’s employment, for girls’ apprenticeships (in something other than ‘health and beauty’ and low paid child care roles) and crucially that develops training of the female workforce in non-traditional skills, is the party that will get women’s votes. What use are apprenticeships on high speed rail, housebuilding projects and other infrastructure projects if women can’t access those jobs because they can’t get the training due to sexism in schools and colleges and blatant discrimination and harassment in workplaces? There is little point in developing improved training in engineering, design and technology if half the population cannot benefit. The party that stands alongside women – and disadvantaged male workers – is the one that will win. I fear there is a strong lobby within the leadership of all 3 main parties that actively wishes women to be unwaged or low waged and plans to force us back to the home, providing free child and elder care. Within Labour, this lobby seems to prefer to attract male votes by ignoring or betraying women, rather than supporting women in their anger and despair and seeking common cause with well-intentioned men. I don’t know how else to explain Labour’s near total silence on the issues of sexism, female poverty and unemployment – and its obsessive focus on ‘youth’ unemployment, alongside references to traditional male occupations and images of males in overalls and hard hats. It’s hard to know which is more depressing – what this reveals of contempt for women, or what it reveals of contempt for men.

  • Daniel Speight

    Maybe his next article for the paper can be on media ownership… or possibly on Leveson?

  • MonkeyBot5000

    Rhyming beats alliteration. Ed loses.

    If you want to beat the “Red Ed” nonsense, show us your policies and tell us how we can sack you if you fail to deliver.

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