Ed would be well advised not to touch Clegg with a bargepole…
It is transparently true that Ed Miliband has a small ‘popularity problem’. I say small because, at the moment at least, this is not much of a problem for the wider Party because this government is patently less popular and that is weighing more heavily in the electoral calculus. However, this is easily evidenced by a look at the polls and furthermore the problem is not with his appeal to the wider electorate (which seems to be virtually non-existent) but actually with declining favour amoung Labour voters.
On one level it maybe true that this is not too much of a problem. Labour voters, speaking plainly, do not need a particularly convincing leader to motivate them to go out and do the necessary and kick this government where it hurts, at least at this moment in time. However, its not hard to imagine how things could change and this issue could become a negative drag on the ratings of the entire Labour Party. Given all this, today’s Independent on Sunday story suggesting Miliband might campaign with Nick Clegg for the Alternative Vote is a little mystifying. My best guess is that Ed thinks it will make himself feel a little better to spend sometime in the company of a political leader marginally less popular than he is but otherwise I think, once again, political common sense has found our leader a fickle friend.
Don’t get me wrong. As an ardent opponent of AV I welcome Nick Clegg’s contribution to the Yes campaign. Nothing would please me more than to see Clegg on a platform squirming, trying to explain why he has had to accept yet another ‘miserable little compromise’. However, I do question the wisdom of the advice being given to Mr Miliband by anybody who thinks this is a ‘good idea’. Especially if AV goes down its going to add to an association with failure which already taints Clegg and could well be contagious.
Although electoral success is expected and, on balance, probably will materialise this is overwhelmingly due to a political climate which heavily favours a Labour Party which could probably get away with having Coco the Clown as its leader. If Ed ties himself closely to AV and Clegg, something that is a personal decision not influenced by the wider climate in the same way, then it will still leave his personal judgement open to question. Also open to question will be the considerable salaries of the gaggle of advisers that live off of the Labour Party and presumably are paid for having intelligent opinions on these matters. Labour marches forward but sadly, I think, this latest lapse in judgement does not augur well that the historical precedent of the Party (and indeed the wider movement) being lions led by donkeys has been changed radically by the leaderships latest incarnation.