Coffee House

Ed Miliband’s winning strategy

21 October 2012

8:46 AM

21 October 2012

8:46 AM

Ed Miliband has adopted a rather simple strategy: do nothing, and wait for your opponents to screw up. It’s lazy, but undoubtedly effective. The Tories are playing along perfectly. The last week has given plenty ammunition for his new theme — which he repeated during his union Sponsored Walk yesterday — ‘they think they are born to rule, but they are not very good at it.’ The Sunday Times reports MPs’ anger that No 10, the most visible part of Whitehall, is turning out to be one of the most dysfunctional. David Cameron’s odd fuel tariff announcement last week did have normally loyal Cabinet members wonder what on earth is going on in No 10.

Another MP points out to me that when Osborne was pictured on that now notorious train journey, he appeared to be watching a film on his iPad with his aide — at 3pm on a Friday. It may not seem the worst offence in the world, but it plays to an image some Tories have about chillaxing at the top,while those at the bottom risk losing their seats due to ensuing shambles.


Osborne’s work is certainly cut out for him, if today’s ComRes opinion poll for Independent on Sunday is anything to go by. It shows that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are now level with David Cameron and George Osborne on economic competence (which had hitherto been their main advantage). Labour is 9 points ahead on an Opinium poll for the Observer. It just needs to be 1 point ahead to win a majority at the next election. Cameron needs a 7-point lead.

Labour has had a lead around 10 points most of this year, and Miliband the most effective conference season. Cameron’s speech was far better, but less memorable. ComRes found that 33 per cent say Labour is a ‘one nation’ party where just 25 per cent say this of the Tories. ComRes also has Miliband’s (dis)approval ratings on a net -11, better than Cameron (-21) or Clegg (-38). Osborne is also not doing much to inspire confidence in the economy. Some 63 per cent agree with the statement: ‘I do not expect the economy to return to good health for at least five years’.

Now, I think an Ed Miliband victory would be a calamity for Britain — he has no policies and his ‘predistribution’ nonsense suggests naïveté of the most dangerous kind. But recent weeks have done nothing to change the balance of probability pointing — just — to Ed Miliband sending Christmas cards from No 10 in just three years’ time.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Watcher

    Millipede has Marxist stamped on his bum, Balls is a self-serving chauvanist on the make. A less attractive pair it would be hard to find. Milli knifed his brother in the back because he showed revisionist tendencies, Balls denounced Brown but lacks any alternative economic strategy. If they get into power mass exodus will follow, exit wealth, talent, acumen enterprise……..

  • Anthony Makara

    If Labour does win the next election, David Cameron will be to blame for his panic after not winning the last election and doing a deal with the LibDems, which in effect now throws every centre and left-of-centre anti-government vote Labour’s way by default. The extent to which the Liberal vote has always been an anti-government vote has been underestimated. The LibDems have never had a core body of support like Labour or Conservative, their vote is always the vote of the contrarian, who by his/her nature tends to be anti-government and always looking for change. No wonder Labour has been so mute on policy, it simply has to be not the government to sweep up the protest vote. The days after the stitch up with the liberals several of us warned in various forums that the ‘deal’ gifted the next election to Labour. Miliband with 100 plus majority, two terms in office, get used to the idea.

  • john problem

    Yeah, but it’s not gonna raise the hearts of the voters. Of course, Ed’s not dumb – he knows nobody wins elections – parties lose them. But, but. If only he would get tough and hammer the so-called government on what the voter wants to hear: beat up the bankers, tax the uber-rich (the French now do that – why are our leaders so wimpy…?) get immigration down, stamp on benefit exploiters, tax evaders, and so nauseatingly on. He can promise the earth – voters know half of it won’t happen but they just want to feel that somebody in Westminster knows what makes them angry. Come on, Ed!!

  • McRobbie

    I listened to a left whinge news reviewer on Sky saying that the recent tory bobbles compares badly with the smooth labour machine of blair and the other one. I remember the labour spin machine, very glib, very managed, very dishonest. I think I’m happier with the real life stumblers we see at the moment, most of them magnified by an intransigent civil service, the trade unions of the public sector of doctors, police and more… its more genuine and open… isn’t that what we really want?

    • Daniel Maris

      Way before the Age of Spin we had far more competent governance whether it was Atlee or McMillan, Wilson or even Heath.

      This is probably the most incompetent government of all time in the democratic era.

      Part of the problem is that they are entirely PR-driven, far more even than Blair.
      That’s why we have had volumes of meaningless legislation that only serves to add to the red tape wrapped around government and business.

  • Grenouille

    This is why I won’t subscribe.
    Fraser enjoy your silver as a BBC Milliband talking head. Are you just trying to create controversy to sell a few more copies ? Who has the morals Cameron or you ?

  • Mark

    Hi Fraser,
    ToryOAP is right, enjoy your silver with the BBC as a Milliband talking Head but don’t spout this nonsense here just to create controversy and sell a few extra copies. Who has the morals Cameron or you ?

  • Daniel Maris

    It is easily the best strategy if your opponents are an incompetent rabble.

    You give a diagnosis and prognosis but no prescription…

    There are things Cameron could do:

    1. Sack Osborne.

    2. Put someone in as Chancellor who will pursue a Plan B.

    • Span Ows

      You are Ed Balls and I claim my £5.

  • monty61

    Wasn’t that Cameron’s strategy? That didn’t quite turn out as planned, did it!

  • David Lindsay

    Peter Hitchens pretty much saying “Vote Labour” –

    Norman Tebbit pretty much saying “Vote Labour” –

    Phillip Blond pretty much saying “Vote Labour” –

    And there are still two and a half years to go.

    No wonder.

    Only one party now advocates the
    Union as a first principle, and any concept of English identity. A universal
    postal service bound up with the monarchy, the Queen’s Highways rather than
    toll roads owned by faraway and unstable petrostates, Her Majesty’s
    Constabulary rather than the British KGB that is the impending “National Crime
    Agency”, and its own 1997 manifesto commitment to renationalise the railways.
    The National Health Service rather than piecemeal privatised provision by the
    American healthcare companies that pay Andrew Lansley. Keeping Sunday at least
    as special as the last Conservative Government left it.

    The restoration both of energy independence and of the
    economic basis of paternal authority, through the reopening of the mines
    promised by Ed Miliband to one hundred thousand people and the television
    cameras at the Durham Miners’ Gala. The historic regimental system, and
    aircraft carriers with aircraft on them. No Falkland Islands oil to Argentina.
    The State action necessary in order to maintain the work of charities and of
    churches. The State action necessary in order to maintain a large and thriving
    middle class. A referendum on continued membership of the EU, explicitly and
    repeatedly ruled out by David Cameron and William Hague, but never by Ed
    Miliband. A free vote on the redefinition of marriage, very recently and
    half-heartedly conceded to Conservative MPs, but always guaranteed to Labour

    Labour is reverting to its historical norm as the voice and
    vehicle of a many-rooted social democratic patriotism in all directions, inclusive
    of social and cultural conservatives as well as social and cultural liberals,
    inclusive of rural as well as urban and suburban voices, inclusive of
    provincial as well as metropolitan contributions, and inclusive of religious as
    well as secular insights. The 2010 intake is very largely “classic Labour”, the
    boys in their dads’ suits having decided to sit out the hard work of
    Opposition. As a result, Labour has long enjoyed a commanding lead both in the
    opinion polls and at the actual polls.

  • dalai guevara

    Hyping Ed will do one thing – it will make the government think twice before announcing yet another nonsensical, meaningless or indeed counterproductive policy.

    • Bluesman

      If only.

  • The Sage

    Please can The Spectator publish the “photo-shopped” picture of Ed Miliband sitting in a first-class carriage and where the hypocritical Labour Party removed the sign on the window that it didn’t want the great British public to see. Guido has it.

    • ToryOAP

      Please don’t expect the Speccie to attack Milliband. Here is the picture:

    • realfish

      It wasn’t a photoshopped (i.e. manipulated) photo…Miliband’s bag carriers went round the carriage removing first class seat covers. What you see is what happened – Miliband pretending to be travelling standard.
      Of couse no-one has challenged him on this.

  • CaptBlack

    Unless of course Scotland goes independent in 2014 – who needs a boundary review then.

  • David Trant

    The real threat to the Tories is found in the Survation poll UKIP on 12%. Even if the UKIP figure at the GE is no higher than 8% it will mean that the Conservatives chance of getting a majority are diminished dramatically.

    As for Miliband his strength so far is not that he’s done nothing its that the Labour Party hasn’t done anything silly (well yet) its calmer than a mill pond. Compare that with the Conservatives who seem to be in a lather over everything, particularly Europe.

    • Fraser Nelson

      MORI polling shows that, of those voters who have left the Tories, half went to Labour and half to UKIP.

      • David Trant

        Comres IoS
        lmost one in three people who voted
        Conservative at the last election are ready to back the UK Independence
        Party, or have switched already,

        according to a devastating new opinion
        poll revealing the danger posed to David Cameron by a growing
        anti-Europe sentiment across Britain.

        Ten per cent of 2010’s Tory voters say they have already decided
        to back Ukip, while 26 per cent of those who still support the
        Conservatives are “seriously considering” switching to support the
        Eurosceptic fringe party. Nigel Farage, its leader, has sought to
        capitalise on the economic crisis gripping the eurozone.

      • FF42

        It’s worse even than that. Half of Lib Dems voters have gone to Labour. Not half of those that have left. Half of all Lib Dem voters. In a zero sum electoral system, another vote for the opposition is another vote against you. To govern, David Cameron needs Lib Dem supporters either by attracting them to vote Conservative instead or by going into coalition with them.

  • james102

    Turnouts at elections are crashing because it really does not seem to matter which political party is nominally in power.
    Judges, EU bureaucrats and our own Quangocracy will still make the vast majority of decisions and elected politicians will just seem to be there to take the blame.
    The whole “Class” debate at the moment seems to me to be missing the point that it is the political class that the public feels contempt for ,not just the Andrew Mitchells and “Toffs”.
    The next story will involve Labour politicians renting flats to each other. One of these is the chairman of the standards and privileges committee. The speaker has tried to close the issue down, making it worse.
    If parliament runs its predicted length then issues such as the EU and Euro will dominate; that is why Cameron is positioning the Conservatives on these issues now.

  • Daz

    Turn it in Fraser, you’ve fawned over the tories, now you reap what you sow, a shambles, unfair politics with no direction, the economy heading into the abyss, our public services torn apart all the while you little middle Englander’s are obsessed with Europe and immigration. Pull your heads from out of your anuses.

  • DavidDP

    The behaviour of Tories over Mitchell – threats to resign, jokes to mp the media – was in the end responsible for him having to go. Had they pulled together, the damage would not have been done. It’s evidence that the party isn’t really serious about being in power.

    Oh, and given what Virgin said about the ticket thing, it would be nice if at least one media outlet reported on it properly and noted that the story is one of the press deciding to make things up.

    • Jebediah

      Agreed party discipline is terrible.

    • james102

      No it was the leadership that got this wrong, MPs saw the issue needed to be dealt with or Labour would have had a stick to beat the Conservatives with for months.Mitchell also could not function as Chief Whip because he was a laughingstock among the people he was supposed to keep in line.
      Personally I think the bicycle was enough to make him a laughingstock but it seems this was just “eccentric”.

      • dalai guevara

        Funny that you mention it, the new chap – which is the old chap – is also on his bike…

  • ToryOAP

    Mr Nelson. If, as you rightly say, an Ed Miliband victory would be a calamity for Britain, why don’t you convey this to your writing staff? All we seem to get in the Spectator now are puff pieces on Milliband and the magazine appears to be veering dangerously to the left. Dogs should not bite bitches, no matter if they are occasionally incompetent, and your teeth would be better served if they were firmly attached to the trousers of those treacherous hypocrites on the opposition benches. God knows I despair of this coalition, and you must hold their feet to the fire, but for crying out loud try and keep us poor tories on side.

    • telemachus

      No policy!
      Is not an afternoon movie Chancellor not a calamity.
      Is not build for growth not just a policy but something that will rescue us from progressive decline
      The current media comment and polls are pointing us to salvation from this mess.
      Ask yourself you traditional right wingers
      Are you confident or happy with current direction?

      • Michael Foot’s Hand

        “Build for growth” is a slogan like “Better alive than dead” – not a policy. The left wing is all about slogans rather than reality. And their slogans are empty, which is why after 13 years of Labour government all those things they professed to champion, schoolz ‘n’ hospitalz, law and order were in such a state of decline when they left office and left notes saying “all the money is gone”. Now, nitwits like you think it enough to deal in slogans again, as though hollow words provide some sort of alternative to grim decisions.

        Yesterday’s march (something, perhaps the only thing, the left are good at, protesting rather than solving) was all about slogans. The left is built on slogans, presumptions and prejudices, like you.

        • Scott

          Telemachus is just a red tinted spec wearing labour Oxford educated luvvie. Don’t react to him.

          • ToryOAP

            He did not go to Oxford – he is a stalker, a troll, a racist and a pathological liar.

    • Fergus Pickering

      You speak truth O Old one. I fear Fraser has the memory of a fish, welcoming back the tossers, wide boys and incompetent oafs on the other side. Fortunately, the electorate has than kind of memory also. By 2015 all this will be quite forgotten and we will be hailing the recovery, because there will be a recovery, small but there. Which is what George was banking on all along. All will be well and all manner of things will be well.

      • ToryOAP

        The recovery has already started with 0.7 % growth in the last quarter and we will continue to grow while Europe falls into a black hole of debt. I find the attacks on the tories in the last week a bit strange: Mitchell denies the comments attributed to him but the press and the police get their man, Osborne paid to upgrade (why should our Ministers not travel in first class anyway?), Cameron screwed up an announcement on energy – all minor issues compared to the continuous corruption and shambles of 13 years of labour and their hypocrisy while in opposition. The tories will win in 2015 despite the press and Cameron’s incompetence and I have put a very large wager on this with my local bookie.

        • David Trant

          Errr you obviously haven’t looked at the facts, (not the electoral stats.anyway) if I were you I’d save ‘yer money for the energy bill, ‘yer gonna need it.

        • dalai guevara

          Recovery? We have seen the NIESR figures last week, thank you.

          Have you been blinded by the fact that we just printed £50bn, which has in effect devalued the currency you measure this growth in?

          Economic illiteracy in its prime form, yet again.

    • Holby18

      I too worry about the direction of this blog which has got worse in recent months. I am reading similar views from other journalists namely Ben Brogan and Iain Martin. All supposed to be right of centre journalists too. They seem to have forgotten that we have a coalition government and their musings are the same as when Labour were in power and they were criticising the opposition. They are sending a message that the Tories are the same old divided party. Many MPs are doing the same – they have forgotten what is like to be in the wilderness and what they are doing is giving the keys to Downing Street to Ed Miliband. They are throwing away their own jobs.

      It is now bash the government time by silly journalists who are a disgracee to our democracy. Yes please do analyse policy and put alternate views. All this silly gossip is bad form. The silly old codger Norman Tebbit makes headlines on Sky News – we all know that he is a nutter and likes the limelight. We have incorrect information published on a train ticket etc etc. Journalists are tweeting and this is being picked up as accurate when much is make belief. Is it any wonder that we are not buying newspapers?

      Andrew Mitchell should not have resigned. He made a mistake, apologised and the matter should have been over. Shame on those MPs who thought otherwise. I bet most of them did not read the interview with Chris Mullin either. Parties must stick together if they are to become successful. Norman Fowler’s book should be compulsory reading for all Conservative MPs because they are up to the same antics as they did under John Major. no loyalty to their aprty or colleagues, nasty briefing etc etc. Journalists seeking to get one over on their competitors care less as they are no longer a profession as Leveson showed us. They are doing a disservice to our democracy…..

      • Michael Foot’s Hand

        Well said. The artificially manufactured furore over the train ticket, the way the lie was spun – and believed – was incredible. Rational analysis is dead. Instead we have puff pieces, speculation and gossip mongering.

      • Fraser Nelson

        Holby18, journalists are not supposed to make life easy for the government. Any government. Ben Brogan and Iain Martin would sooner give up writing than become beholden to any political party. There are some very good websites set up to support the Conservative Party, but Coffee House is not one of them.

        • Russell

          Neither should the Spectator be part of LabourList, as it appears to be little more than a labour mouthpiece of late..

        • Open_Palm

          It is journalists like your good self and Brogan who indirectly fawn over the Conservatives with blanket criticism of all things Labour that brought Tory supporting readers in droves to the Spectators and Daily Telegraph online. Their disapproval is the fruit of your own labour (no pun intended).

          Only Ian Martin, imho, can truly be labeled as a journalist who has not “become beholden to any political party”.

        • bloughmee

          “There are some very good websites set up to support the Conservative Party, but Coffee House is not one of them.”


          That’s perfectly fine, as the Conservative Party isn’t conservative, but then, neither are you folks.

    • Russell

      I seem to remember ALL the press and media (BBC in particular) doing nothing but praise both Blair & Brown for almost the entire period of their governments. It was disgraceful then, and what the press, in particular the Spectator are doing, slipping back into labour are wonderful mode is disgraceful now.
      How about some stories relating to Labour MP’s, including Balls travelling first class, and the Labour MP’s house- swapping for rent advantage, and Miliband the millionaire and Inheritance tax avoidance etc. etc.
      Fair enough to point out the coalition incompetence, but a bit of balance would seem to be in order.