The political world is full of strange ironies. I have remarked before on the most obvious – the fact that David Cameron is on the brink of losing another seat with a five-figure Tory majority, but his leadership is not in question. Instead, as the Sunday papers reported at great length, it is Ed Miliband who is staring down the barrel of a gun.
To summarise, only a third of Labour supporters think Miliband is up to the job of being Prime Minister, the Labour leader is even less popular than Nick Clegg, and Ed’s approval rating among Labour supporters has dipped below 50 per cent.
Meanwhile a raft of newspapers, all hotly denied by the Miliband bunker, suggest that plots to oust the man who cannot manage a bacon sandwich are breaking out all over Westminster. Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor, has some useful advice for Ed. Get on the front foor
“If you retreat, if you feel sorry for yourself, if you start mumbling and muttering, your enemies will take advantage of it,” Darling told The Sunday Times. “The best form of defence is attack. So attack. On all fronts.”
Ed will do precisely that today – and in the process plunge himself even deeper in the mire.
Miliband is best known for his student Marxism, giving the impression of being the permanent postgrad at some former North London poly, earnestly devising arcane schemes for neutering global capitalism. Even the New Statesman, the Bible of the Left, has branded him a “quasi Marxist” and “an old-fashioned Hampstead socialist”.
So how is he going to turn the tide? By telling the conference of the Confederation of British Industry of his opposition to an EU referendum and that the growing prospect of Britain quitting the EU will “close us off from the world” and risk jobs.
You might think this pretty rich coming from a man who, true to his agit-prop roots, is best known for his denunciations of the business world, and the “predatory capitalism” he sees lurking in every balance sheet. Young Ed is never happier than when assaulting banks, utilities, bookmakers and railways. Never mind that his party trails the Conservatives by 25 points on economic competence.
Bizarrely, Ed plans to get out of jail by cosying up the captains of industry, the big business types he specialising in condemning most days of the week.
He will go on to say that if Britain quits the EU it will step away from a trading bloc that strengthens our ability to work with the new economies, like Brazil, India and China. This would be a “disaster” for the UK, Miliband will claim.
Of course it would be nothing of the kind. It seems to have escaped the sage of Hampstead’s notice that because Britain is in the EU, it is forbidden from striking trade deals with the emerging giants of Asia and South America. Only if Britain quits Brussels would it be free to return to its historic role as a premier global trading nation and reach such agreements wherever it chooses.With Ukip snapping at his heels and with the Conservatives adopting a more Eurosceptic stance, you have to question the political wisdom of the floundering Labour leader throwing in his lot with the Brussels brigade.
True, he will find some solace among the complacent corporatists of the CBI, many of whom are only too happy with the suffocating and expensive EU bureaucracy, which closes out so much competition from smaller, more agile and innovative firms. But Miliband would be better off casting his eye across two pages in this weekend’s business section of The Sunday Telegraph where more than 1,000 UK company chiefs, members of Business for Britain (BfB), call for a new deal for UK membership of the EU founded on a flexible, competitive Europe with powers returned to the nation state.
Sentiment about the UK’s continued membership of the EU is changing fast. BfB cites independent polling showing that 66 per cent of business leaders support an EU referendum. Ukip’s rise is part of a deeper movement against government by remote, insensitive and incompetent bureaucracies.It is no surprise that our teenage Marxist, no doubt still grieving over the collapse of his precious USSR, is again on the wrong side of history.