Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent at the FT has an inadvertently [see update] interesting and amusing article up, in which he seeks to endorse the commentariat view that Ed Miliband is in crisis of leadership time:
Ed Miliband’s attempt to revive his flatlining poll position with a “cost of living” relaunch on Wednesday was overshadowed by a protester armed with a handful of eggs – and voters who endorsed recent criticism of his leadership.
Jim bases this ‘overshadowed’ analysis on selected comments from three people at Miliband’s walkabout (Jim calls them an ‘ad hoc focus group’, presumably as some kind of office bet about how far he can stretch the concept of research methodology). Two of the respondents say they’d like to hear more concrete policy from Labour.
For Jim, that’s bad news for Miliband, and handily confirms the commentariat view that Miliband is in trouble.
For me, it’s good news.
It suggests* Labour’s strategy to open up the pre-conference media space is working pretty well.
Ask yourself: would these two people have asked for more clarity on Labour’s policies before the Andy Burnham interview and the ensuing media reaction – a reaction that includes Jim ad-hocking his focus group to explore just this issue? Probably not. Last week they might, if you believe the media narrative, not even have known who Miliband was. Now they’re keen to hear what he has to say. As I said the other day,
Labour have simply reached for the old political play book: demand an answer on something that’s well within your power to deliver, get the media and the public to echo that demand, and then deliver on it, making clear that you’re responding to the call of the public. I was told that on my first day as leader of my local Labour group by the ex-leader (I was never any good at it, mind).
None of this changes the researched-to-death-but-ignored-by-the-commentariat fact that few people will actually remember any detail of the policy proposals the same commentariat demanded on their behalf, but it does allow Miliband’s team more airtime than they would have got otherwise.
* Of course we don’t know how Jim elicited these comments. If his questioning was open (e.g. “What do you think of Ed Miliband”) and two of the three responded about the need for concrete policy, that would suggest a more direct impact on their openness to Miliband’s coming messages. If It was closed (e.g. Do you think Miliband needs to offer more concrete policies?”), that would suggest any such openness is still being heavily mediated by the media at a secondary level.
[Update: Jim’s been in touch to say he used the phrase ‘ad hoc focus group’ “somewhat ironically”, so I am happy to withdraw my suggestion that the piece is “inadvertently” amusing. He meant to amuse me.