This was supposed to mark the end of Labour's long wait. They told us it was the moment when the party's policy banner would unfurl and the Ed Miliband project would begin to make sense. Thursday was to be a day of delivery. But in a week of English World Cup defeats, any sense that Labour was bucking the national mood and charting its own convincing path to victory seemed further away than ever.
The venue was chic and modern - the Rich Mix studios in east
They contained a stream of radical policy ideas for building more houses, for improving childcare, devolving powers, getting young people off benefits and into good jobs and for re-establishing the link between benefits and contributions. Responsibility, contribution, devolution, prevention were its cleverly woven interlocking themes. It was a bible on how to reinvigorate social democracy in an age of austerity, a big picture story that many in Labour wanted to adopt, pretty much lock, stock and barrel, as the basis for the party's 2015 election manifesto.
As Miliband prepared to speak, however, he did so with minds elsewhere. His own dire personal poll ratings had cast a big shadow and added to a pre-existing mood of fatalism among many of those present.
"Can I speak to you off the record?" said one senior party figure, who went on to decry, in hushed tones, problems with "the leadership". Another, flicking through the book, noted that it was an event "not so much about the Condition of
Others muttered about a "desperate" and "grim" atmosphere. No one seemed wholly upbeat, not even Miliband himself, who admitted that the odds were against Labour, though he thought they would overcome them.
Another figure with authority in the party said he still did not know whether Miliband would accept much of the IPPR programme, or whether he would reject it. "It depends on which Ed Miliband you are talking about," he said. "Will it be the Ed who is bold, who really wants to change things? Or will it be the one who is defensive, cautious and listens to the focus groups? Is our leader the guy who learned his craft sitting on
From beginning to end the questioned was unresolved. There was a party leader on stage and a policy programme on seats but no one knew what the relationship was between the one and the other. That morning, Labour had briefed the press that it would accept one of the IPPR's 30 or so big ideas - to end out-of-work benefits for about 100,000 18- to 21-year-olds and replace them with a less expensive means tested allowance if they went into training.
To those wanting a big, broad, new story to tell about the condition of
Miliband's team blame the right-wing press for a swirl of anti-Ed feeling and say that even the liberal papers are now following their agenda because a narrative has been created that they cannot resist. Even the departing Newsnight frontman
The leader's team argue back at those who say he is indecisive and weak, saying he has taken on
Kinnock told the Observer that Miliband would prevail, because he had all the strengths necessary to win and had good messages to boot. "A hostile press, which thought he was a soft target, have not forgiven him for proving them wrong," he said, adding that "the vindictiveness will continue. It won't stop him - his genuine strengths of thought, action and toughness will get through and help to win victory for Labour."
Kinnock and Blunkett, like most others, know that Labour's position is far from desperate, and a long way from unrecoverable. It is still ahead in most polls, albeit narrowly and with the trend edging in the wrong direction. Today's Opinium survey for this paper puts the party on 35% to the Tories 31%, Ukip's 17% and the Lib Dem's 7%.
But whatever his spin doctors say, there are deep-seated problems and divisions within Miliband's team that are serious, and hampering efforts to present a united front or indeed much of a front at all. The leader is being pulled in different directions by those such as
One frontbencher said the party now had masses of radical policy on offer but was being held back by an election team dominated by Brownites who wanted to run a mile from most of it and instead believed in setting up endless tactical "dividing lines" with the Tories over issues such as
There are tensions too between shadow chancellor
Miliband's inner circle can say the problems are all got up by the press, but it is hard these days to find young party workers who in private are really inspired. Instead they can see blockages caused by disunity over policy and tactics.
In the next few weeks Labour will produce more policy reports on how to stimulate growth and devolve power to the cities and local government, before its national policy forum next month and party conference in September.
The question for Miliband, as he seeks to pull things round, is whether he can use these to unite his party behind a clearer vision, or whether more policy ideas will just fuel more disunity and doubts about whether he is the man for the job.
The bacon sandwich incident was a low for Ed Miliband and
posing with the
Most Popular Stories
- Homeowners More Satisfied With Mortgage Servicers
- House Shelves Immigration Bill, Goes on Vacation
- Ford Tremor: Easy to Park, Hard to Pay For
- What Hamas and Israel Hope to Gain in Gaza
- Notorious RBG Tells All in Couric Interview
- Why Samsung Shares Plunged in the April-June Quarter
- House GOP Leaders Abandon Immigrant Bill
- NASA Plans to Make Oxygen on Mars
- Market Loses All of July's Gains in One Day
- Wisconsin Supreme Court: Voter IDs Must Be Free