I don't get it. These people, your Wee Dougies, your Spencer Livermores, and the others who staff the leader's office, they're supposed to be the creme de la creme, the apprentices and heirs to Peter Mandelson's dark arts. And yet between them there is not one ounce of common sense, not a single speck of political understanding. Ed has responsibility for this pitiful state of affairs. He appointed them. I'm not in the habit of criticising for criticising's sake, but they all need to get a grip. And they can start by reading this straight after I've explained why posing with The Sun was such a dumb idea.
2015 for Labour has to be the (shudder) 'reconnection election', it's the only way we can maximise the one shot we've got. If we fail, if the Tories win next year, we can look forward to the double gerrymander of redrawn constituencies and individual voter registration. Therefore I can understand what our hapless spinner was thinking when s/he handed Ed a copy of the paper. The Sun might be declining, it is a horrible right wing rag that will doubtless stump for the Tories, but most Sun readers are Labour voters. We can't well have Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Doomed featured and Ed not. Just think of the fuss if he'd spurned the request for a photo opp! We definitely can't be seen as being "too good" for a paper read by millions of people.
Understandable, but it is unfortunate that 1997 still casts a long shadow. However, what was media management 101 then is a leadened albatross around our necks now. Times change, so media strategies should too. The dogma doesn't work. Our strategists have to learn to think. So here's why The Sun opp was wrongheaded.
1) It alienates core Labour support. It wasn't only Merseysiders who were less than impressed. The networked, urbany lefty-types and LibDem switchers are also appalled. Given the stand Ed has made against Murdoch, it looks desperate and nakedly opportunist to try and curry favour with his paper.
2) From the point of view of "The Sun's army of loyal readers", it looks just as dreadful. On the one hand, it's patronising. The unstated assumption is getting one's face in the rag will translate into votes. Never mind the fact Sun readers are every bit as complicated and individual as those who would look down on them. Far worse than that, however, is that it looks fake. As the paper's readers already prefer Labour to the Tories, that indicates they are more than capable of filtering out the bullshit. They know politicians don't read The Sun, and that Ed Miliband is the most unlikely of the three leaders to do so. In other words, all it does is remind readers of the disconnect between real life and the Westminster village. No one, no one will think that Ed Miliband geezer's "one of us" because of a photo splash. But they might think "bloody hell, he must be desperate if he thinks posing with The Sun will get him votes."
It's time Ed and his team got a grip. Ed isn't "normal". So deal with it and play to his existing strengths.