Dan Hodges is one the best, and certainly one of the most honest, Labour bloggers. He is also a dissident, a self-described “Blairite cuckoo in the Miliband nest”.
It reflects well on the Conservative Party that talented bloggers who deviate from the official line – like Mr Timothy Montgomerie, to snatch a name randomly from the air – are nevertheless given a certain degree of respect. Not so, the Labour Party – where Dan Hodges and his fellow Blairites are regularly roughed up (metaphorically) by various Brownite goons. Luckily, Hodges has a stall in the Telegraph’s stable of bloggers, from which his party can obtain all the home truths they may care for.
This was his take on the day before Ed Miliband’s big speech:
- “Ed Miliband is losing the next election. He doesn’t act like he is… Nor does his party: Labour activists have arrived for their annual political expo buoyed by a significant lead in the polls.
- “But defeat, while not exactly staring them in the face, is dogging their footsteps. ‘Everyone recognises the Coalition’s messed up’, opines one shadow cabinet insider, ‘But people still don’t trust us. Crucially, they just don’t trust us on the economy’. Another expresses frustration at what he calls the Romney Strategy, ‘That guy thought he could just sit back and win it by two or three points, so he basically said and did nothing. And now he’s blown it’.”
In pondering whether his leader would finally get serious about the economy, Hodges ventured the following prediction:
- “My own suspicion is that while we may get a fig leaf or two to cover the nether regions of Labour’s policy skeleton, Miliband will bottle it.”
He wasn’t wrong. Nor, after the event, was he carried away by the eructation of Mili-mania that immediately followed the speech:
- “Ed Miliband’s speech wasn’t light on charisma. It was light on content. We are told Miliband is the great policy wonk. But where were the policies? His solution to the immigration crisis? A rise in the minimum wage. His solution to the crisis in welfare? None. His solution to the greatest global economic crisis for the best part of a century? Something called the One Nation Business Model.
- “This may not have been a speech rich in substance, but it was rich in irony. The conventional wisdom is that Ed Miliband is a man hiding his personality behind his policy prospectus. Today we saw a man using his personality to cover the gaping hole were his programme for government should be.”
This is a typically astute observation, one that clears away the clichés to get at what’s really going on. And yet, in final analysis, Dan Hodges is wrong:
The awful truth about Ed Miliband isn’t that he’s a clueless politician leading his party to defeat. Rather, it’s that his strategy – of rubbishing the Coalition, while having nothing to say about what a Labour government would actually do instead – is highly effective.
Yes, it’s cowardly. Yes, it’s dishonest. Yes, it’s contemptible. But that doesn’t mean it won’t succeed. In France, something similar worked for the equally irresponsible French Socialist Party and the equally uninspiring Francois Hollande – and, right now, it’s difficult to see what’s going to stop it from working over here.