3 May 2015

Ed Miliband unveils his own political tombstone


Everyone involved in the UK election is tired. The cursed contest has been running for months and it feels like years, so it is perhaps understandable that the parties should make mistakes with only a few days left.

But these are the moments of tension in which a leader on the campaign trail is tested. When his or her over-worked and stressed staff come up with a stinker of an idea, the leader must have the judgement to say “no, we’re not going to do that because it will make me look very silly.”

That – or “have you gone stone-cold crazy?” – is what Labour’s Ed Miliband should have said when his advisors turned up with a plan to commission an eight foot high monumental slab with Labour’s election pledges carved on it. Then they briefed that this monstrosity will be installed in the garden of Number 10 if Labour wins. Miliband not only agreed; he posed in front of it.

It is such a mind-bendingly bad idea that it is difficult to figure out what on earth his advisers thought they were doing when they crafted this plan. Large slabs with writing carved on it suggest tombstones and in this context political death.

Then there is the question of defiling the garden at Number 10 with party propaganda. Proposing the ruination of a nice garden is about the worst thing a leader needing to win over Middle England could do.

However, most of all it reminds me of the scene from the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, in which the manager of Britain’s loudest band commissions a replica of Stongehenge for their stage show. The measurements on the plan are wrong, and the band is forced to use the resulting tiny scale model.

“So it became a comedy number,” says the manager afterwards to the humiliated musicians.

“And it was not fun being part of the comedy on stage,” screams frontman David St Hubbins in response.

I imagine it is not much fun being part of the comedy on stage right now in Team Miliband. Ten days ago, with Cameron flagging and the Tory team faltering, Miliband was having a great campaign and visibly growing in confidence.

Since then, the Tory focus on the threat from the SNP and ‎Miliband making a hash of talking about the economy, has given Cameron the momentum that is vital in a close race. Now, his Milimonument disaster – designed it is said to restore trust – has reduced the hitherto well-run Labour campaign to joke status.

Of course the advisors are getting the blame, and we will have to wait for the memoirs to find out exactly how the Labour leader found himself standing in front of his own political tombstone five days from an election. If Miliband came up with the idea himself he should just resign now.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX