It happens every year at about this time: the press feverishly talk up the Budget, the opinion polls flicker in the Tories’ direction, and as if by magic the stories start about the Labour leadership: it’s not working! Ed is odd! He’s under pressure! There’s going to be a revolt! Yah boo, nyaah nyaady nyaah nyaah! Thus the punditerati run around like so many blue-arsed flies.
And one pundit becoming increasingly blue, and not just in the arse, is poor, deluded Dan Hodges, having taken his bat home from his years of Labour membership and taking to the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs to whine once more about how rubbish the party’s leadership is, and if only they had done what he wanted them to do – whatever that might have been – then all would be well.
“Everyone now agrees: Miliband isn’t working” he declared late yesterday. Why? One of his pals lost out: “The [Labour manifesto] job was initially handed to Liam Byrne, but Byrne was deemed too divisive – ie Blairite – for the role. [Jon] Cruddas, something of a darling to the soft-Left, was chosen as his replacement”. This is meant to confirm that Hodges is right. Perhaps.
“And here, in a nutshell, is Miliband’s problem. Everyone has suddenly woken up to the fact that his strategy isn’t working. But no one can agree on what the alternative should look like ... still Labour’s poll lead continues its inexorable slide downwards”. Yes, he’s gone from the Colonel Nicholson of the Labour Party to the Corporal Jones of Tel blogs. Opinion poll change, Mr Mainwaring! Don’t panic!!
In any case, to accuse someone who has Alastair Campbell on call of not having a grasp of strategy is coming it. Hodges manages to miss all those YouGov polls for the Sun which the Murdoch faithful decline to publish, because they show a consistently adverse outcome for the Tories. There will be more of them in the future, especially when Osborne’s pension “revolution” gets rumbled.
That does not deter Hodges, who has now claimed “When the party loses in 2015, as it will, it will then be clear why Labour lost”, together with a bizarre attack on Guardian pundit Polly Toynbee, the kind of thing that right-leaning papers demand of their own pundits as a way of distracting readers from the shortcomings of their favoured team. One round of opinion polls does not a result make.
One London-based media observer I spoke to recently reckoned that, in the old print-only days of weekly columns, Dan Hodges would have managed comfortably. Sadly, pressured to churn out daily opinion pieces, most of what emerges is barely coherent rubbish. The problem then is that when he says something worth hearing, few want to listen, because of all the rubbish.
And that’s a bleak prospect for a pundit fighting for his credibility. Or lack thereof.