Friday was Ed Miliband’s day. Labour’s rise in the local elections revived his leadership and gave him a chance once more to articulate his message without the media sniping at his heals. Such opportunities are rare for party leaders – the space to say what they want to say, the time to craft a message, and the chance to choose a platform from which to deliver it.
The rarity of such moments means that it is a good time to judge a leader, a good time to see where they are actually leading up to, not just the bunkers they are forced to duck into. Most days, they are responding to some crisis or other, to the daily news cycle. With the coalition government, policy disagreements between Lib Dems and Tories are much more interesting to journos than what a hypothetical Labour government might do, so Labour struggle even more than the average opposition party to get simple front and centre coverage of their policy announcements. But after the local elections, before the next big crisis – this was Miliband’s chance to pounce – his chance to inspire the country with his bold vision. So, what did ‘red Ed’ do with his big day?
He went to Essex to slag off NHS workers and unemployed young people. Specifically, he called on any NHS workers who pull a sicky to be sacked, and called on young people to work harder to find jobs which don’t exist. If I was trying to think of the two least helpful media narratives he could perpetuate, they might well be inefficiency in the NHS, and laziness of young people who can’t find work…
After a local election in which the Tories were punished – in no small part because of dismantling the NHS and because of youth unemployment, this is perhaps extraordinary. Rather than articulating the case for the welfare state, and the case for job creation, for investment, Miliband took his big chance and decided to use it to put the boot into some of the people in Britain hit hardest by this Tory government.
In other news, on the 30th of April, 100,000 sick people lost benefits worth nearly £100 a week. Does Mr Miliband think that they are all faking it too? If not, it seems Ed is more interested in kicking those who are down than he is in helping people up.