The failings of those around Ed Miliband are numerous. From the Edstone to the interview with Russell Brand, the disconnection between Team Miliband and the real world was one of the key factors contributing to Labour’s defeat last month. But I now understand they committed a far graver crime: taking Dr. Eoin Clarke seriously.
Clarke, or @LabourEoin as he is better known, spends his days tweeting poorly produced infographics about various public policy matters — mostly related to the NHS. With 42k followers, plus 25k through his ‘think tank’ @LabourLeft and 10.4k with @LabourAndy, he has a decent reach within the hard left. Although there are a group of Labour MPs who retweet Clarke, such as Andy Burnham’s PPS Debbie Abrahams, most dismiss what he has to say — not least because it has consistently proven to be inaccurate (see his apologies for Lord Ashcroft, Virgin Care and Anna Soubry for example).
But it transpires those around Miliband actually listened to him. A Labour source reveals that two senior members of Team Miliband not only following what Clarke said during the campaign but also thought it had to be taken seriously. When one Labour staffer attempted to dismiss Clarke’s latest laughable graphic, the two staffers were heard saying ‘we must not underestimate Éoin Clarke’. The fact that Team Miliband would even consider what Clarke thinks to have any relevance shows how misguided the campaign was.
As I wrote last week, Andy Burnham’s leadership campaign faces a threat from Clarke and his band of followers who are attempting to portray him as the most left-wing candidate. Among the Labour grassroots, this perception matters and differentiating between official communiques and grassroots offerings is tricky. But Steerpike pointed out yesterday that Team Burnham is not making the same mistake and is signalling what constitutes official campaign messages. Maybe they will take note of other Miliband mistakes and avoid a 8ft 6in stone with their pledges engraved on it too.