Miliband must end his ‘This Is A Low’ mentality
Wallowing in defeat has its advantages – but Ed Miliband might be taking things a bit too far in his trip to Thurrock today.
The Labour leader is heading out to Essex to once again shore up the prospects of his local candidate there, Polly Billington. She's a former personal adviser to Ed and her election to parliament is viewed as critical if Labour are to win next year's general election.
This is about more than just Polly, though. Miliband's expected to unveil a grand plan for tackling the mistrust in politics he believes underlies Ukip's success. He and those around him believe serious, bold steps need to be taken to re-establish the relationship between voters and those who aspire to govern them. Once that's fixed, it's hoped, the Nigel Farage headache will go away.
This is a fundamental part of Miliband's 'One Nation' approach, tied in with his commitment to bash the banks, the corporations and all the other vested interests who are making ordinary people's lives miserable. But the link isn't very well understood by most – and certainly doesn't get much attention.
Part of the reason for this disconnect is that Miliband can't resist the temptation to muddy the issue with opposition politics. Take his comment released ahead of today's Thurrock visit:
"There is a deep sense of discontent with the way our country is run. I am determined to show people, including those who voted for Ukip, that we can change our country so they can build a better life for themselves and their family."
Note the emphasis on the way 'our country is run'. When the leader of the opposition uses that phrase, everyone reading it is quite within their rights to assume he means 'the government'. Actually, though, Miliband's opposition is much more broad. Let's see how well that message comes across today.
Some are already questioning the timing and location of his visit.
Labour won control of Thurrock in 2012 – a development Miliband proclaimed as evidence that the party was "winning back people's trust" and "regaining ground".
How unfortunate, then, that last week Labour lost control of the council following defeats in two wards locally characterised as a 'heartland' for the party.
Miliband is set to confront that today and, in so doing, set out his prescription for how to fix the problem of voter engagement more generally.
Labour has been fairly quiet on how to fix the big problem of politics summed up by Ukip's monster protest vote in recent months. But sources close to Miliband have told me there has been some deep thinking going on – surely not – about finding answers. Everything is on the table – even reforming prime minister's questions.
Miliband likes turning crises into opportunities. Doing so with the failure of others – like the media or the City – is different from attempting to turn your own inadequacies into a reforming moment. It makes this latest bid to bounce back full of risk. The problem is that singing 'This Is A Low' again and again turns into the worst kind of repetition.