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12 June 2011

More unsolicited advice for Ed Miliband

The Labour leader's style is under scrutiny.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

And so it goes on – the proffering of unsolicited advice to Ed Miliband. The papers are full of it this morning, as well more of the kind of outlandish speculation about high-level discontent in Labour at Miliband’s leadership I discussed yesterday.

The Sunday Times splashes with “Labour big beasts maul Ed Miliband” (£). Apparently, according to Isabel Oakeshott and Marie Woolf, “senior party figures say they were wrong to elect him and give him a year to prove himself”. Who are those “senior figures”? One of them is David Blunkett. But what he actually said doesn’t quite amount to a “mauling”: “We need to remember that Ed has only been opposition leader for eight months and it took David Cameron two years to establish himself in the public eye. However, the next year will prove vital in creating momentum and a sense of direction.”

I’m not sure Ed Miliband or his closest advisers would disagree with any of that. And I doubt, either, that they’ll be losing any sleep over the fact that Bill Kenwright (yes, that Bill Kenwright: theatrical impresario and chairman of Everton FC) thinks Miliband should “work on his leadership skills”.

Simon Walters in the Mail on Sunday tries to stoke the fires of fratricidal antagonism between the Miliband brothers in his report on Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre’s biography of the Labour leader, which is serialised in that paper today. Walters says the book paints “a less-than-flattering portrait” of its subject. Knowing Mehdi and James as I do, I think I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read the whole thing (it’s published a week tomorrow).

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By far the most interesting and substantial discussion of Miliband’s leadership comes in the Observer, which has asked a number of left-of-centre intellectuals and policy experts to give their verdict on Ed. Paul Hackett, director of the Smith Institute, speaks for most of those of invited to pass judgement when asked for his view of Miliband’s leadership so far:

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[It’s] still too early to judge. He’s struggling to project himself as a strong leader and has yet to connect effectively with the “squeezed middle”. However, he has made a clear break with New Labour and opened up space for a wide-ranging policy rethink.

Unfortunately, that sort of temperate, measured analysis is not the stuff of which front-page headlines are made.