What's that I hear? The sound of a consensus cracking?
Since 4.50pm on Satuday 25 September 2010, commentators on the right and on the so-called "centre" of the political spectrum have queued up to dismiss Ed Miliband as a lightweight, a cipher, a left-wing loon, "Red Ed", who would consign Labour to electoral oblivion in 2015 and beyond. They collectively mourned his brother David's narrow defeat.
"By choosing Ed Miliband, Labour has handed David Cameron the next election," read the headline to Matthew D'Ancona's column in the Sunday Telegraph the next day.
"On Saturday, David Cameron won the next general election," declared D'Ancona in his opening line, adding: "Could it really have chosen the wrong Miliband? Yes, it could."
"Will Labour be dead with Red Ed?" read the headline to Martin Ivens's column in the Sunday Times, also on 26 September.
"In No 10 last week some were looking forward to an Ed victory for the least flattering of reasons," wrote Ivens. "'There will be rejoicing in Tory towns all over the country if Ed wins,' a top Conservative strategist told me."
"The party voted for David Miliband but got the Panda instead," read the headline to John Rentoul's column in the Independent on Sunday.
"Ed Miliband, who would have struggled against David Cameron in the House of Commons in any event, is going to be roasted every week," argued Rentoul, an ardent Blairite, adding: "I fear that he fights with both hands tied behind his back."
Now, however, more than a year and a half later, following a shambolic budget from George Osborne and impressive gains for Labour in the local elections, those same commentators (and others) have changed their tune and are queuing up to warn against the new and looming threat posed by the Labour leader.
Here's D'Ancona in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph:
It is time to start thinking seriously about Prime Minister Miliband – to roll those words around your mouth. Whatever response the 42-year-old Labour leader provokes within you – and he has always inspired a broad range of reaction – only a fool would ignore his party’s steady progress in the local elections and commanding lead in the opinion polls (15 points ahead of the Tories in the last two YouGov surveys). The cement of popular opinion has not yet set in Miliband’s favour. But let us be objective: after two months of Coalition “omnishambles”, one has to consider that it might yet do so.
To be fair to D'Ancona, the former Spectator editor also added:
When the younger Miliband defeated his brother for the Labour leadership in September 2010 by a tiny twist of the DNA helix, many – including the present writer – thought he lacked the bearing of a future PM. But it must be conceded that he is learning, and fast.
Here's Martin Ivens in yesterday's Sunday Times:
[O]ne May morning in 2015 we could wake up with Ed Miliband as prime minister — even if there are no cheering crowds to greet the dawn with him as they did Tony Blair. Apathy, despair over a miserable economic outlook and a low turnout could return Labour to office...
The headline of the column?
How Miliband could make it to No 10
Meanwhile, in yesterday's Independent on Sunday, John Rentoul, through gritted teeth, acknowledged how
Cameron has allowed Ed Miliband to re-forge the coalition of the Blairites and Brownites. Peter Mandelson co-authored an article on the economy with Ed Balls, and Andrew Adonis returned to the fold to review Labour's industrial policy.
The political consensus has been well and truly cracked. The pack is on the move. Finally. It's taken a while but they seem to have got there in the end.
"Having spent the past six months studying him for our book, I have one piece of advice for Ed Miliband's conservative critics: don't misunderestimate him," I wrote in a column in the Guardian back in June 2011.
Those were the days when I got knocked by the right for daring to write such pieces. So, Matthew, Martin, John - great to have you onboard!