The nation may not have quite decided but I get a sense that the commentariat have decided that Ed Miliband isn't up to the job. There have been some devastating pieces about the Labour leader recently. Iain Martin in today's Mail (scroll down this link) wonders if Saturday's rally was Ed Miliband's William Hague baseball cap moment. He thinks those split screens of the Labour leader comparing himself to Martin Luther King while yobs threw ammonia bombs at police could be defining. The Economist's Baghehot notes the dominance of "flat-earth" public sector interests at Labour's recent policy-making conference. The Times' Philip Collins wrote on Friday that Labour was in "fatal" danger of again becoming "the natural party of opposition".
But the piece that most struck me was a piece from Tom Bradby, ITN's Political Editor. I'm surprised it hasn't received more attention since it was posted on Friday. Bradby makes some criticism of the Tories and praises some aspects of Labour's record but as a diagnosis of the strategic mistakes being made by Ed Miliband it is devastating. And, remember, this isn't from a partisan columnist, but someone obliged to provide independent commentary:
- Labour over-spent during the boom years: "Ed Balls can say all he likes that our historical debt position was not outrageous, which is true. But we were running deficits in these years when we needn’t have and we were much, much too reliant on what we can now clearly see was highly speculative income from the financial sector."
- Labour hasn't said what it will do now: "Ed Miliband admitted to me in Afghanistan that this reliance on the City had been a mistake, but at no point has any senior member of the shadow cabinet tackled this issue head on. Combine it with the fact that the party was incredibly slow to acknowledge the dangers posed by the deficit and the way in which it is still barely able to come up with a single cut it would make in public spending, despite being committed in theory to at least eighty percent (and who knows, perhaps, in reality, more) of the spending cuts the coalition is currently implementing and you can see why the patience of most non-aligned Westminster observers is wearing thin."
- Not paying off the debt could hurt growth: "Labour would have been committed to four fifths of these cuts anyway and we can all see that paying more interest for longer would have its own impact on growth."
- Eurozone crisis reinforces Osborne's rescue mission: "it’s possible Osborne is doing too much too soon. Maybe it will all blow up in his face. But the longer the European debt crisis continues, the more people may tend towards the view that his is the less risky option."
- The end of New Labour's economic credibility: "The party now seems to me to be in serious danger of losing the economic credibility that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair worked so hard to build."
- Many in Labour agree that Ed Miliband has the wrong message: "You think these views are a little harsh? Too cynical? Too jaded? Too unfair? Well, I can assure you that there are plenty of very senior Labour figures who would agree with every word."
And Bradby's final conclusion:
"Miliband needs stronger arguments and better troops. And he needs both fast."
Read the full blog.