Coffee House

Who tells Ed Miliband when he’s made a mistake?

24 April 2014

10:30 AM

24 April 2014

10:30 AM

Dan Hodges’ piece in this week’s Spectator on the team around Ed Miliband is a must-read (and we’ve posted an even longer version online here). As he runs through those working with the Labour leader, a clear pattern emerges. There doesn’t seem to be a Lynton Crosby equivalent working with Miliband. One of the many things that make Crosby so important to the Conservative party is his ability to swear at them and tell them they’re doing something wrong.

Miliband doesn’t have a Crosby-esque character in that respect. Instead, all those around him seem keen to either demonstrate that they are the most loyal, in a Uriah Heep-esque display of servility, or to bolster Miliband confidence.

One of the reasons for this is that Miliband doesn’t privately give his close colleagues the impression of great confidence. Humility certainly isn’t an attribute considered that attractive in Westminster and can perhaps be mistaken by those who don’t think it a sign of strength as low self-esteem or stupidity. So perhaps the Labour leader is just a humble chap.


His deportment does contrast with the confidence displayed by David Cameron and George Osborne, whose colleagues worry more that they might appear too triumphant too soon about the recovery. The Prime Minister and Chancellor could, some worry, fall into a trap of assuming that Miliband is a bit of a weirdo and will naturally lose next year. This is the sort of over-confident hubris that leads teenagers to christen themselves the ‘Cool People’ and lord it over others at school – although most of them manage to grow out of it by their twenties. The danger for the Tories is that they make a similar assumption about Miliband and underestimate both him and their own image struggles over being ‘out-of-touch’.

Either way, Miliband’s colleagues seem to think that he will never be arrogant and in fact needs reassuring a lot of the time. ‘Over-confidence will never be a problem,’ one of Miliband’s allies said to me when we were discussing his PMQs performance. They didn’t mean it as a compliment, particularly. But while trying to bolster Miliband’s confidence, his team may also be forgetting to tell him when something really doesn’t play well so that he can improve.

This desire to be unremittingly reassuring doesn’t just get directed at Miliband, though. Jon Cruddas is well-known in the party for having conversations with people holding all sorts of different views and sounding amenable to all of them. ‘Jon is very good at having nice chats with people and making them feel as though he’s going to do what they want,’ says one senior MP who has presumably discovered the reality.

The problem is that people do find out that their ideas were, ultimately, considered a bit rubbish in spite of the warm words when they were discussed, and not every speech by even very confident leaders works perfectly. Labour loves building Lynton Crosby up as the pantomime villain of politics, but the party could probably take a leaf out of his book at least on telling the top dogs what they don’t want to hear.

Read Dan Hodges’ piece, Meet Team Miliband, here.

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Show comments
  • roger

    Who?I hope the electorate tell him loud and clear, when? next year.

  • Andy

    The long and the short of it is that Miliband is, like Clegg and Cameron, far too young to be Prime Minister and all three of them have done sod all in their miserable lives. None of them would know one end of shovel from the other and none of them have done a days work in their lives. They all serve their parties and themselves rather than their Sovereign and her state. And that is the whole problem – we need politicans who are there to serve the State.

  • Frank

    Miliband could be a turn-around kid. If he just came out and said that brother David’s climate change act was an economic suicide note that had to be stopped, if he came out and said that he supported an EU Referendum in 2015, if he came out and said that he supported dumping the EU’s open door policy, if he came out in support of much reduced third world immigration, if he came out and sacked Ed Balls and the other Gordon Brown relics on his front bench, if he came out and sacked Gordon Brown from the House of Commons, if he pushed for publication of the Chilcot Report, if he went to the teacher’s conference and told them a few home truths (and sandbagged ludicrous Tristam Hunt in the process), etc, etc.
    The same thing is true of David Cameron, although the topics would be slightly different.
    Neither will do it. I am quite sure that both know that it would work magic. All very odd.

  • Gareth Milner

    He needs his own Malcolm Tucker

  • CaptainDallas

    If he’d listen, the electorate will tell him he’s wrong.

    But then, it’s so much easier to listen to highly paid ‘gurus’ than go out and about isn’t it?

  • keith

    Its a bit late for Milliband to start changing his crew now, even if he could i don’t think he would, he does not appear that comfortable with strong minded people who say what they think, he likes the Sadiq Khans, Rachel Reeve, Chuka Umunna types around him, there like his nodding dogs, same with his backroom staff, mind you Cameron has the same problem, it just goes to show how the whole political establishment has lost touch with the wider society and the problems they face.

  • Mynydd

    Michael Howard advised by Lynton Crosby failed to win a general election. Mr Cameron advised by ? failed to win a general election. So do two failures make a winner.

    • Makroon

      No, two failures make a Labour front bench.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Would that be the David Cameron who has been Prime Minister for the last Four years or do you have another one in mind?

  • Makroon

    To answer the question – Balls and McCluskey take it in turns to tell Red he has EVERYTHING wrong, then there are the professional scolds and know-alls at the Guardian and New Statesman, and last, but not least, the disaffected Blairite outriders like Dan Hodges.
    Not that Red will take a blind bit of notice – he is ‘ideology man’, driven by a narrow and destructive set of slogans learned at his father’s knee.

    In other news: our lovable media have been indulging in a veritable paroxysm of pleasure and self-congratulation over an apparent fall in violent crime and ‘binge drinking’.
    What better time then, for those humorous spoil-sports at the ONS to pop up and spoil the party by announcing that according to “their numbers” violent crime is still on the increase ! You have to laugh.

  • swatnan

    We all do!
    No shortage of criticism of EdM.

  • Tony_E

    None of it really matters in electoral terms. The collapse of the Lib Dems, the huge anti-Tory (i.e. anti wealth) vote and the new whiff of class war will see Miliband comfortably home on the current boundaries.

    It’s who will tell him he’s wrong when he tries to use regulation of British businesses and changes to the tax and benefits system to enact further massive redistribution and social change. He will attempt to remove a great many of the natural incentives that keep the country at least partly competitive in the international markets, and the disincentives to idleness and failure.

    I suspect that a year into a Miliband government we will see a massive loss of market confidence in the UK (or what is left of it past this September). And everyone in Miliband’s inner circle will have convinced themselves that it’s proof that their new brand of socialism is working because the Bourgeoisie are running scared. The Marxist group think is quite frightening.

    • Barakzai

      ‘ . . . convinced themselves that it’s proof that their new brand of socialism is working because the Bourgeoisie are running scared.’

      Quite so, and the egregious Ballses, Burnham, Umunna, Harman, et al will trumpet that the electorate (or rather 35% of it) gave them a mandate, even as, inevitably, another 5-year socialist programme screws the country.

      I begin to see some merit in Scotland going its own way, if that means a near-term solution to the West Lothian Question.

    • Colonel Mustard

      The prospect of Miliband entering No.10 on the basis of his party’s lies and propaganda in order to perpetuate the same failed ideology again is dreadful.

  • Kitty MLB

    Ah bless, Labours little work experience leader looks quite sleepy- pondering a socialist land of dreams. He doesn’t have anyone to tell him what to do and when he is wrong. A long time ago, leaders just got it, they just led and although had people
    to advise them, it was generally not our modern type of unelected advisor from
    another land.
    The issue with Milipede is as in the words of Thatcher : you cannot lead from a crowd.
    And unfortunately Milipede doesn’t have the gumption to move away from the crowd,
    in fact they are his advisors who help him chose the next bandwagon and not necessarily the correct one.

    • telemachus

      The narrative of Miliband the odd, Miliband the Geek, Miliband the sheep will look a little off beam when UKIP splits the Tory vote
      The first proclamation from the steps of No 10 will be a reiteration of the words of St Francis
      But Ed will carry thru rather than do the opposite as the last incantor

      • Kitty MLB

        Still living in a fools paradise if you think UKIP are not really after the working class Labour voter. Conservatives you see may come back to the fold, as they deplore Labour much more then Cameron. But Labours little traditional lost sheep have not had a fold for decades-
        quite homeless before joining the ‘ peoples army’ now they have their barracks.

        • telemachus

          The working class man sees wax jacketed Farage as typical of the hunting shooting and fishing set

        • Shazza

          Very true Kitty and like most converts to a different religion, they can become fanatical. Let’s hope that a very large chunk of Labour supporters become UKIP fanatics!

  • DWWolds

    Wasn’t there a story around a few weeks ago that, even when Milliminor makes poor speech, his acolytes welcome him back at their HQ with a round of applause?

    • telemachus

      We need the razzmatazz of applause to motivate and drive forward
      As I said yesterday that is why Gove is so evil
      Miliband knows well that Ed Balls is hypercritical
      With good reason
      But his time will come

      • Colonel Mustard

        The odious Balls is hypocritical rather than hypercritcal. Dan Hodges on Team Miliband:

        “‘Poisonous’, was the picture painted by one former senior advisor. ‘Dysfunctional,’ said one shadow cabinet member. ‘A bunch of medieval courtiers, not an office,’ said another. The most positive description I could get was ‘It’s a work in progress. They’re learning. Slowly. But they are learning.’”

        Do we really want a bunch of Gordon Brown has-beens and wonks “learning” their way into No.10? I think not.

  • Shinsei1967

    Isn’t the problem with Cameron is that he really doesn’t have someone to tell him what to do either. Hence no one mentioned that he really needed to get a grip on the Maria Miller affair – either defend her properly or sack her immediately. Plus no one seems to tell him about the various discontents amongst back benchers.

    • Tony_E

      I was quite surprised by the Miller affair. I think the Labour and Lib Dem members on the panel deliberately went to find her innocent of the charges, knowing that their approval would simply leave the PM in a tight spot – he couldn’t sack her because she was innocent, but the public would always think she was guilty.

      There was something intensely ‘political’ about the whole thing, which should purely have been about process.

      • fundamentallyflawed

        The Miller affair highlights the problem with parliamentary processes… No process or anyone within it is truly neutral, and any attempt to reform is met with hostility within and by the media (see the recent attempts to reform MPs pay and expenses). Cameron’s flaw is his inability to show the force of will we expect leaders to have when tough decisions need to be made bad. Hes either getting bad advice or no advice… the sharks are already circling in anticipation of another 5 years in opposition

    • helicoil

      The problem with both of them is not their acolytes, it’s that both of them are too dim to work it out for themselves.