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Today, Ed Miliband revealed the start of a new campaign to win the backing of the middle classes. The “Promise of Britain” will, he argues, be restored by a Labour Government that will satisfy the aspirations of a social class who have been let down by the broken market.
It’s an absurd pitch in many ways. For a start, he offers no definition of who the middle classes are – average earners? Would-be homeowners? Graduates? It could be any or none of these – a vagueness that shows in what he is offering.
Whoever he might be trying to talk to, it’s an odd way to go about it.
Even if we are forced to guess at the identity of his audience, it’s hard to see how any version of the middle class wouldn’t be dismayed by the reckless debt and waste of the last Labour government – for which the two Eds have signally failed to apologise. By the same token, these are the same broadly eurosceptic people to whom he refuses to give a referendum, and who support the welfare reforms that his party criticises.
In short, he is simply to trying to scrawl a new reputation on top of existing views of his Party – when he should have started by wiping the slate clean.
That isn’t the only sign of dodgy generalship.
When a political leader decides to reach beyond his core territory, it is normally an indication that they feel confident, just as generals secure their home turf before invading anywhere else, and establish solid supply lines as they advance.
Apparently the Labour leader has decided to junk these conventions. Just as he tries to drive his divisions onto the lawns of the middle classes, his existing territory is under threat.
A series of his colleagues have publicly criticised his main message, “One Nation”, as lacking cut-through to the electorate. The fabled showdown with trade union bosses which he needs if he is to secure control of his own policies turns out to be a brief “Hi and Bye”. Even the Hollande government across the Channel is abandoning the Plan B economics which Labour has long espoused, after disastrous experimentation.
If that wasn’t enough, new Guardian/ICM polling suggests his voters are abandoning him as the economy improves – and Iain Duncan Smith is mulling a further lowering of the popular benefits cap, which should help that process along.
In such a situation, one would normally expect him to be getting his own fortress in order, not sallying forth into new lands.
Maybe it’s that he has policy superweapons up his sleeve, and he’ll be proved right. Maybe it’s bravery, and he simply has more mettle than anyone who went before him. Maybe he knows something about the strength of Labour’s electoral support that pollsters don’t. Maybe he’s over-reaching himself.
By the middle of next week, we should know what the Miliband sales pitch to the middle classes is – and we’ll know which of these is really the case.