Ed Miliband profile: Gary Gibbon meets the Labour Leader
Meet Ed Miliband on the road right now and you meet a very ebullient person. He’s more consistently relaxed and confident than close aides can remember. From the moment when he felt he out-performed David Cameron in the Channel 4/Sky programme at the beginning of the campaign his morale was boosted and hasn’t faded.
The Tories put Ed Miliband and the voters’ doubts about his leadership credentials at the heart of their campaign but so far, according to the polling, it isn’t working. Ed Miliband’s ratings are moving upwards (though they are by no means stellar) and the long-awaited Tory break-out has not shown itself in polling.
For the last of our four profiles I spoke to old allies of Ed Miliband, long marchers who believed in him from the off. Ed Miliband often proclaims his resilience but some of them have had their worries about his resilience from time to time. Some have spoken of him being a chip off the Gordon Brown block, too ready to call for more papers and reconvene meetings. If David Cameron sometimes takes decisions too quickly, Ed Miliband is the opposite. He rejects all this, of course.
His intellectual soul-mates salute his passion for ideas and reminisce about long Sunday afternoons at his house, often adjourning down the road to a North London café, exploring the challenges of the Left, chewing over how you re-cast capitalism for the modern age. But has it all amounted to something that will transform Britain or did he get stuck in abstractions?
Phil Collins, Tony Blair’s old speech writer, says that like his old boss, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband finds it easier to describe the promised land and struggles to translate it into a practical plan. The former Obama adviser, David Axelrod, was repeatedly heard telling Ed Miliband in recent months that he needed to “elevate” the offer to the voters from the “palliative” stuff. Ed Miliband insists he’s done just that.
In her first interview, Sue Nye, long-serving aide to Gordon Brown, remembers being impressed by Ed Miliband’s radical edge from the day he joined the Brown team in his 20’s – he’s always wanted to “change the world,” she says. “I still do,” Ed Miliband tells us. “If I wasn’t in politics I’d be trying to do it in some other job,” he says.
Ed Miliband himself is baffled by the Tories’ campaign – some Tory donors appear to agree. But Ed Miliband’s flaws remain at the heart of their campaign, with the tweak of SNP puppeteers layered on top of the “he’s weak” message. Ed Miliband’s still all over the Tories’ viral ads and posters, rarely to be seen on Labour candidates’ campaign literature. But if he’s not the voter repellent Lynton Crosby thought he was, he could yet be Prime Minister.