Once upon a time, Labour’s communications operation was legendary in its ability to weave a magical political narrative and deflect harm from coming the parties way; so mythic was it that it gave birth to the satirical flying monkeys Malcolm Tucker would deploy in The Thick of it. Now however, this mighty machine is less F1 racing car and more a Mini Cooper; something that was evidenced by the giant mess around a press release saying Ed Miliband intended to make the NHS a defining issue at the next election.
Firstly, its immensely stupid to tell your opposition what you’re going to do this far in advance. Secondly, this and mysterious disappearance of Ed Balls do create the rather unfortunate impression that Labour has actually given up on the economy. Finally, it conveys the impression that Labour’s search for a narrative is becoming as panicked and desperate as my 50-minute hunt for my house keys this morning when all along they were right under my nose. A good solid narrative is right under the parties nose or indeed on the pages of this and other left-wing blogs.
In partial defence of our hopeless strategy team it is absolutely true that when the NHS is high in people’s minds Labour does poll well. However, they seem to have taken this and Labour’s success over the Drop the Bill campaign and run away with it into some political dream world where this is the goose that lays all our golden eggs. It is still the economy, stupid. I think the leadership probably gets that (well, I hope they do) however, the communications department inability to say anything in a joined-up sentence has again made us look profoundly stupid and not so much shot the golden goose as hung, drawn and quartered it.
The problem starts at the top. Ed Miliband has to take some responsibility for employing people who can’t do their job and let’s be frank – Tom Baldwin simply doesn’t get politics in any way shape or form. He has no feel for it and therefore no sense of how to package a message so its political coherent and fire-proof. You can’t entirely blame Tom for this, he is, after-all the former lackey of a organisation (News International) in which politics is something you were spoon politics by your tyrannical owner who was busy sunning himself in a far-away swimming pool. Tom is, however, worse than hopeless in his current position and his team are less capable than a team of chimpanzees with typewriters, or even better wireless and a couple of laptops, would be. So, he should be dismissed without hesitation.
Ultimately, there remains a chronic lack of leadership direction and clarity, however, this it not helped by a supporting team which is so feeble when it comes to executing its role. We were doing well on the NHS and that advantage could well have been squandered by this act of thoughtless stupidity. Ed Miliband has obviously decided to make a concerted effort to try to project a ‘steel edge’. If he is to maintain this momentum then he could do worse and sack Tom Baldwin and the entire communications team because it’s a major hinderance to this Party and the political impact it is hoping to make.