All these repeats on television. Miliband did the TV debates again. And again. All his questions. So much happening in the world and he wants to talk about a TV programme, the PM said. “He’s weak and despicable and wants to crawl to power on Alex Salmond’s coat tails.”
Despicable and weak. Ouch. Yes, that made Cameron’s supporters wince. An upstanding Tory, an Etonian, a natural leader with his easy grace and upper class charms – he can’t say those things and expect people to think Miliband is despicable as a result.
What people think is, “Why is the prime minister so exercised over someone like Ed Miliband?”
When Cameron displays the good manners of his class it reaches into parts of the electorate that politics don’t reach.
It’s a mark of Cameron’s only important failure that Miliband – a man who shouldn’t have been allowed out in public – has managed to drag him down to his level. Miliband calls him feeble and useless, Cameron calls him weak and despicable.
Miliband responds with a version of, “I know you are but what am I?”
The prime minister didn’t have to descend so far.
And now, the cycle is working in Miliband’s favour. People are getting used to him. His absurdities have been priced in. Every time he doesn’t fall into the sea, or eats a sandwich without needing a Heimlich intervention, his standing improves.
He may have developed – a reputation is too strong word – a brand characteristic.
There is a chaos of attributes swirling around Awkward Ed. But the public only have room for one idea about a politician.
Ed’s the one who knifed his brother, choked on the sandwich, forgot the crucial part of his memorized speech, got everything wrong from the cost of living crisis to the energy price freeze, flipped on Syria, avoided tax on his house, couldn’t kiss his wife, couldn’t explain what predistribution was, can’t relate to ordinary people, probably hates the working class, has been called the most useless and obviously incompetent and unpopular leader of the party ever . . .
But he’s still there.
And to see him on television now, people would think, ”Actually, he’s not that bad. Not that bad. Why has everyone been saying he’s that bad? Ah, it must be those right wing sketch writers.”
And Cameron – who has been the best prime minister available – has failed to put his opposite number in his place.
Going into this crucial election, he can’t respond to the sallies of a bedsit boy without colouring, or raising his voice, or using the language of malevolent sketch writers. It may be why the perishing thing is too close to call.