Anyone asking ‘can Ed hold on’ hasn’t been studying the form of the Labour front bench. Of all the people who could take over in the event of a departure of the Dear Leader, those best qualified would also be the most man-marked politicians in the country. It’ll hurt very badly if they switch any time later than one month from now. Commentators also need to consider how Ed could leave – he’s consistently ahead in the polls even with awful personal numbers – the hoi polloi would, in the aftermath of a defenestration, wonder why Labour had felt he was worth keeping as a leader of the opposition but not as a leader of the country. Labour would have a problem explaining that one.
John McTiernan pointed out on the BBC News Channel that, realistically, there are four months of political wriggle room between now and the general election. That’s wriggle room, not construction. Any new leader would have to make bold positions the order of the day for weeks on end – potentially upsetting the apple cart of Labour loyalists (and Trade Unionists) who feel they today have a good platform for after a successful election. Alternatively, changing leadership but leaving the policies as they stand would be worthless.
So, on balance, Labour is in a problem of its own making. They knew Ed wasn’t working. They knew he wasn’t swinging the pendulum fast enough, and as a result, the chance of a majority government was slipping away with every passing week. They should have knifed him immediately after Conference – forgetting the deficit was a pretty painfully poor show. Now, however, they simply don’t have time to create a new leader, a new narrative, a new set of political asks.
The mistake Labour made was allowing a Presidential leadership to emerge, because traumas lead to bad presidential decisions. Ed Miliband is simply not personally powerful enough to create a presidential presence – he is thoughtful when he needs to be direct. Everything which would seem like a manly victory for Cameron fails for Miliband. Does a speech without a teleprompter? Forgets the basic economic challenge facing the country.
The narrative is now that Ed Miliband is a failure – and people, armed with a thick pencil in a polling booth, don’t like to vote for the person led by a failure. In a presidency, the person in the electoral college doesn’t matter – so the candidate doesn’t matter. Labour dun goofed – and Conservatives must now pull themselves together to be more competent, united, on top of their briefs and efficient enough to give those same pencil wielding agents of change a reason to put an X in the box beside the tories.