One thing Ed Miliband has proved over the last week is that he can learn from David Cameron’s experience as opposition leader. Back in 2009 during the MPs’ expenses scandal it was Cameron who grabbed the initiative and led from the front. In a difficult situation, it was he who seemed to be leading the country and the then Prime Minister seemed not to understand or be able to react to the public mood. Ironically, Cameron was quick off the mark largely due to the advice of one Andrew Coulson.
This knd of story is always easier for an opposition leader to handle, it has to be said, but Miliband has stepped up to the mark, sounded eminently reasonable and put the PM on the back foot. Indeed, he, together with the extremely impressive Ivan Lewis (shadow culture secretary) haven’t had to work too hard to turn this into a story about dodgy dealings at the heart of Downing Street, rather than Wapping. Quite an achievement.
Miliband and Lewis looked the part this morning, as they gave a press conference from County Hall with a dream of a backshot for the cameras. It was on a par with Cameron’s press conferences as leader of the opposition at the St Stephen’s Club with a windown and trees as a backdrop.Miliband’s speech was calm and impressive and he’s done a good job in backing Cameron into a corner, always appearing as the voice of sweet reason. There’s some heavy politicking going on here, but it is so subtle that most won’t spot it.
To be fair to the Prime Minister, there’s not much more he could say or do without jeopardising the Culture Secretary’s position. It is quite clear they are hoping beyond hope that Murdoch will voluntarily pull the plug on his BskyB bid. Some think it will be a cold day in hell before that happens. But if it does, the consequences for his other media interests in the UK might be catastrophic. If I was an employee of The Times or Sky News, I’d be wondering just how safe my future was. Both organisations lose a hell of a lot of money. Is it just conceivable that a wounded Rupert Murdoch might seek to offload both, or even close them down? That would be a very unfortunate byproduct of the witchhunt which is currently underway. The truth is that Rupert Murdoch is neither the saint his admirers protray him to be, but neither is he devil incarnate, which some on the left would like us to believe. Ed Miliband has a tightrope to walk here, but so far he is doing it in a very assured manner.
I’ve always said that Ed Miliband is not to be underestimated. The last few days have provided me with the proof.