The most interesting thing about Ed Miliband – and I mean this in a completely platonic way – is his face. Smooth and whitened by decades out the sun, his buck-like pearlish teeth stand out especially smartly. When Ed smiles, the Cheshire cat himself retreats in terror of their sunlike glare. A glare comparable only to the beams of light emanating from Ed’s backside. The eyes glisten like black-beetles in a sea of creamy flesh. One of them is bigger than the other. Noticeably so, it’s horrible. The black and spiky hair is in marked contrast to his enormous triangular jaw, which effortlessly merges with his neck into one stubbleless field of grey-tinged orange. He’s very much a Disneyfied politician: a cartoon caricature of what an evil emperor looks like. The Zurg of British politics. And my hat, have you seen how he looked when he was our age? Like Nosferatu crossed with Will from The Inbetweeners. Whatever the case it’s better than his brother, who looks like an anthropoid ape.
Winning elections as underdog isn’t easy. Miliband built up his strength from below much like- I’d love to say Obama, but actually Hitler is an equally obvious analogy. Anyway, he beat his brother David by 51% to 49%. Not the most decisive margin of victory, not least because he actually lost on the votes from MPs and party members in Labour’s barmy electoral college. He was thereby jet-propelled into power on the back of a big union vote. His legitimacy is shaky. In truth this doesn’t matter much: the Labour party is markedly authoritarian and rallies round its leader with brutal efficiency. However, it does mean Ed has to rely yet more on the support of right-wing Labour MPs. His ambition of left-wing revival has crumbled from the moment of election.
I am not going to say whether Miliband is actually a left-wing reformer or not, because at the moment it’s difficult to tell. He could be an Attlee. He could just as easily be a Brown. Miliband talks the talk, but in government he did the grand total of knack all to actually advance the causes he now grasps with such adoration. Aided and abetted by Miliband 2, Brown introduced bills of cuts, tax rises for the poor, and the obligatory attacks on the freedom of the individual. Of course Miliband voted for the good things as well. But his credibility is weakened by his failure to speak out about the bad bits of New Labour. And New Labour, as Obi-Wan says, is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
Not to say he’s a bad leader. A good thinker, a good minister, a good debater. I don’t personally think he’s much better than the Prime Minister in these respects, but that’s subjective. His policy is notable anyway. It’s primarily about rhetoric rather than practical action, and actions speak louder than words. Yet Miliband has broken with the talk of New Labour. A high pay commission- powerless of course, a gesture not an act. He wants a permanent 50% tax rate- a symbolic distinction as we’ll get it anyway, but an important one nonetheless. The left-wingery doesn’t end there: a ‘living wage’, a graduate tax and- be still my trembling corset!- a stonking big levy on the nationalised banks. The latter two are Lib Dem policy. But the fact that Lib Dem policy- and more- is being put at the heart of his platform shows just how different Ed is, or purports to be.
But actually on foreign policy, civil liberties, defence, education and public services, Ed is so far indistinguishable from his brother and from Blair. It’s the other stuff that counts. Talk of him being somehow revolutionary looks like hyperbole. He is a self-proclaimed centrist, but the centre has been pushed to the left in recent years. The point is he actually has major left-wing components to his policy, unlike David M. That is what makes him different- on many other areas he is either New Labour or no different than the alternatives. Whatever. Nobody cares. He’ll do fabulously well in the coming months. In my view he has no credible alternative on public spending. Maybe he’ll invent one. But he doesn’t need to- he doesn’t need to do anything in the face of the cuts. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the pain.