Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Botched vote

Even before the Syrian crisis the question was, is Ed Miliband the most disliked leader in recent British history? No-hopers ranging from Michael Foot to Iain Duncan Smith failed to attract such odium, while the loathing directed at Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair was always balanced out by worship.

Ed Miliband, by contrast, is attacked from all sides. As Labour critics worry that his policies are imprecise and his vision hazy, David Cameron has seized on his opponent’s failure to project a clear public image, painting him as weak. Such objections are minor, however, compared with the widespread wrath unleashed by Labour’s role in blocking any chance of military action in Syria.

Blaming Mr Miliband serves, ironically, to bestow upon him the very power that his enemies claim he lacks. The country is crying out for statesmanship, and the Labour leader will have no better chance to silence his critics. Much as he might prefer to focus on British living standards, voters may judge the calibre of their leaders by what they have to offer the Syrian refugees fleeing with nothing and bound for nowhere. Both Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband are self-professed upholders of public virtue, explicitly committed to creating a better society. No wonder that the public, detecting a whiff of double standards, reviles the political classes.

Today Mr Miliband is making a keynote speech to the trades union conference, will this be strong enough to turn the tide? It was Mr Cameron who failed to get the vote passed the previous week, let's not forget.

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