In America, presidential candidates make films about serving in Vietnam. In Britain, Ed Miliband has made one about going to a comprehensive. If this really is the most exciting and appeal thing about him, then Labour is in some trouble. The intention of the video is clear enough: he wanted to say ‘I didn’t go to Eton’ over and over again. But do voters care? Only in Westminster is it exceptional to have gone to what Alastair Campbell called a ‘bog standard comprehensive’ and Ed Miliband would be ill-advised to claim that he won a Purple Heart of the Proletariat. He was born into Labour aristocracy, the son of a Marxist historian, he’s been having discussions about politics from pre-school age and has spent almost all of his working life in SW1 apart from a year in Harvard which he took as a sabbatical because Ed Balls was making his life hell at the Treasury. He has many admirable characteristics, but he should not try to play the working class hero card that (say) Alan Johnson or John Reid could have done, had they chose. But neither really did. The irony is that people who did climb all the way up the ladder of life seldom make a thing about it. And Haverstock Comprehensive is a good school, attended by many scions of the north London liberal elite. Trying to make out that it’s the Bronx, or even Brixton, is really quite lame.
More importantly, the video fails because it does not convey the Ed Miliband who comes across in person: warm, charming, good company, completely untribal. But whip out a microphone and he becomes staid and formulaic. His friends say they wish he could go out and meet the voters individually, do a massive pub crawl and win people over that way. A personal video should really have tried to do this job for him. Instead, he let Labour strategists talk him into a lame attempt at class war. When Tom Watson did this in his speech yesterday, it even fell flat amongst Labour’s delegates. I doubt Miliband will score much better with his video when it is aired tonight.
P.S. We’ll post his video below when it becomes available.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.