While Mil The Younger appeared on the last edition of The Andy Marr Show (tm) before it took a summer break, and smiled through the inevitable yet pointless questioning over his image, the press has woken up to the mildly inconvenient fact that, no matter how much mud they sling at him, Labour continues to post an opinion poll lead – of the kind that would see Miliband in 10 Downing Street next May.
He's still standing, press people
Moreover, it’s estimated that a lead of just 3 to 4 per cent will see him home and dry with a majority, and therefore no need to consider a coalition with however many of Corporal Clegg’s motley platoon survive their next encounter with the electorate. The constant cry of “Odd Ed” and “Weird Ed” is not having the desired effect. So the abuse has been cranked up just a little more.
How, one might ask, can the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate get more abusive towards Miliband than it was before last weekend? Simples. The Murdoch Sunday Times has now decided to suggest the Labour leader is autistic. The scribblings of Rupe’s upmarket troops are usually hidden behind a paywall, but the Mirror has lifted the story (see how that’s done, Rupe?).
So how is the smear delivered? “Miliband has now decided to tackle the problem head on by reaching out to one of the world’s leading experts on autism. According to the Sunday Times, Miliband has been meeting up with Simon Baron-Cohen, cousin of Borat star Sacha, for chats on boosting his ‘political empathy’”. Yes, they’re not accusing him directly, but nudge nudge, wink wink, and all that.
One can only wonder at what a clearly frightened press will dream up next: although the routine attacks on Labour policy continue – typified by another hurriedly cobbled-up screed from London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in today’s Telegraph – they have no effect. So there is a get-out clause: to suggest the electoral system is unfair and that Labour is deliberately gaming it.
This slice of hokum is brought to us courtesy of James Kirkup, also at the Tel: “Ed Miliband will become prime minister if Ukip wins more than nine per cent of the vote in next year’s general election, Labour advisers have calculated”. And how did he come across this one? “The Telegraph has learnt ... Senior Labour figures say ... Labour sources say ... a senior Labour campaign source”. Yeah, right.
Then, just to hedge his bets, he finds “One Conservative MP”, who tells “Ukip is not just a dark-blue party. They are picking up votes in Grimsby and in Bradford and other key Labour seats. Yet again Ed Miliband’s office seems to be about 10 years behind the curve. While they are taking votes from the Tories, Ukip are also taking votes away from Labour which could cancel out any benefit Miliband sees”.
So what’s the problem? It’s so desperate, it makes no sense. No surprise there.
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