There’ve been a few rumblings recently about Ed Miliband’s perceived leadership qualities. But I’m not sure I’d actually want him to be more popular than he is.
Labour’s not doing brilliantly in the polls – but then the Tories aren’t doing brilliantly either. In fact, the country, the world economy, Greece and her auntie … we’re all doing pretty miserably right now. The important figures I guess – at the moment at least – are the government’s approval ratings, which are about as negative as they could get, as well as the fact that no one seems particularly happy about anything. Opportunity still exists therefore to fashion a convincing political narrative which could turn the voters against either side.
But in my pursuit of a different kind of politics – where openness and civic responsibility were sensed and impulsed by both amateur voters as well as professional politicians – I would far prefer for Labour to win the next general election on the basis of a collegiate and team effort than yet another pulling together by a master puppeteer of the charismatic strings that tug at our political hearts.
That is to say, I want Labour as a political party to win the next election – on its own merits.
And not because its leader is a great communicator.
For the problem of great communicators is that they end up believing – in some deep, dark and hidden way – they’ve done it all themselves. And it’s then when they push parties, voters and society in general in directions the latter never expected to go.
Wider popularity is highly overrated – and often counter-productive. Far more important is the ability to fashion a campaigning machine. That’s where Ed Miliband should concentrate his attention over the next two years. Convince the Party faithful – and the country will soon come round. Forget the Party faithful – and any broader victory over the heads of supporters will be hollow, short-lived and unsustainable.
An effective leader – as opposed to a charismatic leader – knows how to enthuse not only his or her voters and supporters but also convince his staff.
We don’t need a more popular Ed Miliband – we need a more convincing one. There’s a difference and we should be aware of it.