There is nothing that the right leaning part of the Fourth Estate loves more than putting the boot into any party leader, provided they are leading Labour or the Lib Dems. So of late, Corporal Clegg and Mil The Younger have been getting it in the neck from the whole gallery of ranters and frothers at the Mail, Maily Telegraph, Sun and Express. It was ever thus.
Ming Campbell got the same treatment as soon as he became leader. Charlie Kennedy was treated likewise. The grudging respect garnered by Paddy Ashdown was swept away as a past affair was gleefully revealed. And Labour did far worse: Michael Foot’s treatment was cynical and vicious. Neil Kinnock did little better, because although he was younger, he had committed the crime of being Welsh.
And those who think Tone had the press on side must have forgotten that papers like the Mail were never in his corner: Paul Dacre hated him, and that was that. So when Miliband and his shadow chancellor “Auguste” Balls announced at the weekend that they would have to accept the cuts, as these would have been enacted before another Labour Government came to power, there was more ridicule.
And then, when this duo confirmed that public sector pay restraint would have to continue for the medium term at least, the cacophony of baying hyenas reached a deafening pitch. The convocation of those concluding that Miliband and Balls were terminally useless was so certain that nobody had stopped to ask one obvious question: was this all calculated and planned in advance?
To which the answer is almost certainly that yes, it was. Even the announcement on pay restraint, which has briefly ticked off some Trade Union leaders, bears the stamp of prior calculation (and the way in which organised labour was not told first has an uncanny parallel with the Bank Of England not being told beforehand about the post 1997 changes to its role, which may also have involved Balls).
Making decisions that are not easy for many Labour MPs and supporters is something that had to be done – things will be very different by 2015, and arguably so even if a change happens earlier – and this was always best done at the earliest opportunity. Thus, by the time of the next General Election, supporters and donors will have been talked round, and the press will have moved on.
And in the meantime, the Labour party, its leadership, and its stance on a range of issues that matter to the electorate, is kept in the public eye. Those swallowing the line that the exposure will cause Miliband and Balls lasting damage, though, are plain flat wrong. Because this is a case of “no publicity is bad publicity”.
Ask Michael O’Leary how much terminal damage he’s been done by bad publicity.