A point. Here are five major issues.
The News International Crisis.
The UNITE/Falkirk fuck up.
Are we going to war with Syria?
Recreational benefits cuts.
They have in common that Ed Miliband got them all right. On some of them, he got an undivided, absolute win – applying the humane killer to the News of the World, and I’ll stick my head on the block and say that insisting on going to the UN over Syria will pay out. On some of the others, in a worse position, he succeeded in managing the situation without giving up anything serious.
On austerity, for example, I would like more Keynesianism, but on the other hand, he’s kept the option open and refused to give the Tories a win. He’s also succeeded in keeping the shadow ministers from promising their respective clienteles the moon on a stick and therefore looking daft.
On the special, gratuitous Osborne cuts earlier this year, he did what was officially unpopular (although, or because, deeper polling disputed this). The two points can be taken together – keeping the shadow cabinet tight helped to show that this was a significant initiative.
On the UNITE fuckup, he stuck out for legality, but didn’t give up anything substantial. More affiliate members being active would do Labour nothing but good. The unions giving directly would give them more influence. And the commission will report in its own good time.
But most of all, on all of them, he has succeeded in projecting the impression at important break points that he is in control. Out of five prime ministers I can remember, Cameron is the prime minister who has most often seemed out of control. There was a lot of chaos for John Major, and it was mostly concentrated on Europe as an issue rather than spread all over – but look what happened to him.
This isn’t just a question of image. The purpose of having a leader is that they exert influence at critically important times and places. To do this, tautologically, you have to be in control. Also, it may be true that strategy beats tactics, but like everything, this happens through mechanisms. If your strategy is right, you will win a lot of tactical fights. And even if it isn’t, you wouldn’t pick tactical defeat.
Update: The New Statesman: He has merely postponed, rather than obviated, this dilemma. Well, “don’t just do something, stand there (and think)!” is a maxim for a good reason, and headlines like Cameron forced to drop timetable for strikes by Miliband speak for themselves.
More subtly, this point is impressive:
Mr Miliband made his demands despite being called into Downing Street earlier this week to be personally briefed on the security crisis by the Prime Minister.
The Ed is not scared of UK/US/CAN EYES ONLY headers. Excellent. Can I just vote for the guy now?