Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Woolas Affair: Where is Ed Miliband?

Harriet Harman is coming under attack from Labour backbenchers because Phil Woolas was suspended from the party following the election court's finding that he had knowingly lied about his Liberal Democrat opponent.

So beleagured has she become today that her husband, the newly elected Labour MP and former trade union leader Jack Dromey, has felt obliged to tour the nation's television studios as a slightly improbable spokesman for truth and decency.

But where is the Labour leader in all this?

Is Ed Miliband silent because he too lacks authority over Labour MPs? After all, he was not their choice as leader.

Perhaps they share the widespread view of him as a bright sixth former? Though to be accurate, he is more like that sixth former's ink-stained younger brother.

Meanwhile, the theory that Ed Miliband exists for only 30 minutes a week - at prime minister's questions on Wednesday lunchtimes - will be finding new adherents.

Later. As discussed in the comments, Ed Miliband is on paternity leave. We shall see if he makes a decisive return to the scene when the two weeks are over.

Even later. Michael Crick has offered a different analysis on Newsnight. There is considerable anger amongst older Labour MPs at the strong line Harman and Gordon Brown took with them over expernses in the last parliament. The Woolas affair and Ed Miliband's absence has given them an opportunity to vent that anger.

Much later than that. I conceded too much to my critics. Ed Miliband broke off from his paternity leave to criticise Lord Young's comments on the recession. If he had time to do that then he had time to issue a clear condemnation of Woolas's campaign tactics.

So I was right after all. Miliband chose to hide behind Harriet Harman so that he did not have to condemn Woolas and risk upsetting Labour MPs.


E,P. Thompson said...

Isn't he on paternity leave now?

I know that doesn't excuse making Woolas shadow immigration minister, but to complain that Ed Miliband is not saying much is a little harsh imo.

Jonathan Calder said...

Fair point, though the Woolas verdict was last Friday, so Ed Miliband could have taken a lead then.

It is early days, but I suspect we are seeing a pattern being formed. Did we ever hear from him on Ken Livingstone and the Tower Hamlets mayoral election?

Mark Pack said...

Irony about older Labour MPs being angry is that the older they are, the more likely that are to have voted in favour of the 1983 legislation that they now say is so awful. Have you spotted any individuals who were MPs in 1983 complaining about it?

Mark said...

Are you expecting Miliband to voice his opinion on everything, and then castigate him if he decides that his deputy has covered off the issue adequately?

Presumably if he went the other way, and mouthed off about every issue under the sun, you'd accuse him of control freakery.

Jonathan Calder said...

Given Ed Miliband's youth and relative lack of support among his MPs and constituency parties, his overwhelming need is to be seen as an authoritative leader.

And I am not as petty as you seem to think.