Ed Miliband’s article for The Sun – reading between the lines


12:21 pm - February 16th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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Ed Miliband wrote his first article for the Sun newspaper yesterday, which I thought was fairly significant for what it indicated.

Some will say, with good reason, that Labour should have nothing further to do with News International. But if the UK’s biggest tabloid invites you to attack the government, you are unlikely to turn it down.

A reading of the article suggests:

Its not about on law and order as such, as Tim Montgomerie thinks, but about the cuts.
More specifically, about how cuts at the Home Office will lead to higher crime levels.

He promised to protect frontline services but now we find he is cutting 10,000 police officers.

Only a Prime Minister who is going too fast and too far on reducing the deficit, and who is deeply out of touch with the concerns of families in Britain, could be as complacent as Mr Cameron is about the 20 per cent cut in the police budget.

Their fundamental mistake is their reckless approach to the economy. That mistake is leading them to take huge gambles with the police and with our safety.

Its an obvious point to make, but while the public in theory agree that the debt and deficit needs to be reduced, those abstract concepts are usually kept separate from what the impact of the cuts will be. The same happens in the United States: voters are all for small government, until they’re asked what exactly they would like the government to spend less on.

So the trick for Ed Miliband and Labour will be to continually emphasise how the loss of services and changes people see around them are a direct result of government cuts. This is a lot harder than many think.

A liberal shift towards prison reform
I’ve pointed this out before: Ed Miliband is taking a decidedly more liberal tone on prison reform than the previous Labour govt. Ed says:

Tougher prison sentences aren’t always the answer. I think there are times when people get locked up and come out as harder criminals. Some non-violent offenders can be better punished with a tough community sentence, working off their debt to communities over months rather than getting off with a few days in jail.

I’ll support the Government if they bring forward sensible proposals to deal with drugs in prisons and drug addiction and mental illness among offenders. And I’ll support proposals which make it possible for prisons to demand that inmates work.

This is a tough sell to Sun readers, but I’m glad he made it. If Neil Robertson was still blogging he would probably be overjoyed.

More focus on the cuts

The way to keep teenagers off the streets is to have decent youth services and crime-prevention programmes – not cut them by as much as a third.

Though Labour will still make the case for ASBOs and CCTV – both popular with the working class base.

The early attempt to define him as ‘Red Ed’ has failed
Over at The Spectator, James Forsyth lamented that the paper has been giving the Labour leader “a hearing”.

Partly this rapprochement is a product of the fact that Labour are ahead in the polls. No paper can take the risk of writing Miliband off as a loser in the way that Hague and IDS were. But it also marks The Sun returning to more of its normal role as a champion of causes.

It might also mark the end of any attempts by the tabloid media to define him negatively early on. Forsyth points out that, “there was much speculation that he’d be ‘Kinnocked’ by The Sun”.

That strategy seems to have run out to steam without much success. That must really annoy the Tories.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Given the track record of the Sun and its redership, it is hard to think its readers will pay too much attention to what EM writes. Now, if Ed had worn a g-string and developed a 42″ bust things might be different – maybe in this situation he would get their attention.

I sometimes wonder at the mentality of politicians whn they are given opportunities to address an audience. His message should have been far, far simpler and used much clearer language. A simple rule of thumb when speaking to people – Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) – it’s not rocket science and has worked for teachers for many years.

What he said was fine enough, but I doubt it will have gained votes because by this evening it will be covered in fish and chip oil and the message forgotten.

“the trick for Ed Miliband and Labour will be to continually emphasise how the loss of services and changes people see around them are a direct result of government cuts. This is a lot harder than many think.”

This is a good point; we can’t afford to be complacent and rely on people to join the dots between the government’s spending cuts, and the scaling back of public services.

It’s a mirror image of the ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’ syndrome that plagued Labour before the election: people must have noticed, on some level, that NHS waiting times were shorter, schools were better resourced, there were more police, Sure Start centres were opening etc. etc., yet no-one (including many on the centre-left) seemed willing to admit that Labour had done anything worthwhile at all.

Thanks to the right-wing press, people are so convinced that the government spends all its money on scroungers and bureaucrats that many of them have not yet made the connection between spending levels and the services they take for granted. And of course, the government will be doing all they can to blame councils, police forces etc. for making the wrong decisions.

It’s ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’ syndrome.

Oops – spare sentence at the end of that last post, sorry.

SO Ed Talks about tory cuts, due to Errr, the recession,Fair enough less police may= crime rising, but if it does, the Tories may say ohh well we made a mistaek letting people out of prison,But what of the Toires famous ,too many polcie are doing office jobs police staff should do, which basically has lead to giving a office person twice as much work ,not geting rid of it or giving it to a civilian,

At the end of the day from 9 years in of the last Labour government , with Jack Straws years constistng of the Lawrence report and the HRa overshadowing Him actually getting any new police and Blunkett concentrating so hard on Increasing police figures that When Chalres Clarke came in there were so many policies being proved illegal by the HRA and 1000 foriegn prisoners not being deported after being released ,that Clarke said ‘The Home office was in such a state that it would take 5 years to inporve” unfortunately Clarke was ousted before the Police emergers could be introduced,
Then in Came John Reid who said the Home office wasn’t fit for purpose and done the dangerous thing of splitting it in half, Wait the reason 1000 priseners were released without being deported was the Prison and home office didn’t tlak, yet splitting the two offices might have been someithing to do with that,

What I wan’t to know from Ed Miliband is that laobur didn’t get it right on law and what are they going to do about that, the fact the Sun hasn’t ciriticise Ed, doens’t mean that they don’t reaslise he hasn’t go any more policies than the Toires.

And so it begins………

The fruitless process of appeasing Murdoch, that will lead straight to political hell. What is the point? because if you manage to get elected with his papers help , you will be beholden to him like Blair was.

Labour front bench has told back benchers not to attack Murdoch’s take over of SKY. So this the miserable reward. A few crumbs thrown from the masters table.

What this country needs is a govt that was not backed by Murdoch. No point in Tory lite. We have that now in the Lie Dems.

What I see here is the diminishing possibility of News International being tackled, and a government that wants the same cuts only slower.

If Ed Miliband was arguing that there are alternatives to cuts, that would be something worth congratulating.

Labour crawling to the Sun, nothing new there, no surprise.

Tougher prison sentences aren’t always the answer. I think there are times when people get locked up and come out as harder criminals. Some non-violent offenders can be better punished with a tough community sentence, working off their debt to communities over months rather than getting off with a few days in jail.’

‘Aren’t always’? ‘Times’ when people come out as ‘harder criminals’? ‘Some non-violent offenders’? This is feeble; these aren’t exceptional cases, they’re the majority: the prison system is a catastrophic failure in *most* cases.

‘I’ll support the Government if they bring forward sensible proposals to deal with drugs in prisons and drug addiction and mental illness among offenders.’

Could anyone object to ‘sensible proposals’ of any kind? It all hinges on the definition of ‘sensible’.

‘And I’ll support proposals which make it possible for prisons to demand that inmates work.’

And its that ‘demand’, together with the renewed commitment to CCTV (proven ineffective) and ASBOS (proven counterproductive) which show fuck all has changed: Labour is still an authoritarian party at heart.

It’s just a thought…. but has it occurred to EM and those in the Labour party who agree with him that if they had voiced concerns like this when it might have done some good (i.e. early last year) it might have been worth a % or two at the polls?

I know it’s hardly that diffirent from what we have now….. just saying… perhaps we might not have had the ConDems if more people in the Labour Party had had the cojones to start sharpening their stakes for New Labour a tad earlier?

Firstly, if any newspaper offers you space, you take it. So don’t have a go at Ed (or more accurately – his team of assistants) for writing for the sun. This isn’t evidence of trying to woo murdoch – though no doubt that will happen later – as he hasn’t promised anything.

Secondly, shatterface, yes the article was gibberish, but it was written for the sun so you probably won’t expect a detailed policy proposal – besides which when you are in opposition those tend to be counter productive anyway when you are 4 years from an election.

Spot on planeshift

To back Planeshift/Sunny, am I the only one who has seen articles in the Guardian by a certain D. Cameron (purportedly…)? As far as I can see, his government has not really gone towards the Guardian’s preferred political stance as a result.

Since almost every paper includes columnists from different political viewpoints than their editorial one quite regularly (I don’t read the Sun, but the Times certainly has various forms of current and ex-socialists writing for it), because people expect it (and tend to go to papers that do – anecdotally my parents switched to the Times from the Telegraph when I was young because they were concerned I was starting to read the paper and the Telegraph coverage was too unbalanced – and they are unreservedly right wing!), then it is not surprising. Plus even the Guardian has I believe about 15% of readers voting Conservative (the Mirror may be less) – all the (more popular) ‘right-wing’ papers have substantial numbers of readers who vote Labour. The press is not as tribal as some commentators think (although some sections are still unashamedly pro-Manchester United, which is just unacceptable…).

At DemocracyFail we have no problem with Ed Miliband writing articles for The Sun. Labour need to use all means to reach as large an audience as possible.
However, we have been urging him to be bold and stand up to the Murdoch empire, particularly now that its reputation has taken such a knock. What better time for a Labour leader to free himself from this corrosive relationship?

And what better way than to call for the establishment of a media commission to undertake a full scale review on media ownership and regulation? This is decades overdue but becomes ever more urgent in the fast changing media landscape.

To our bitter disappointment, it seems we must dream on. A couple of weeks ago we learned of the email from Tom Baldwin (Ed M’s strategy director) warning Labour spokespeople to lay off Murdoch by not linking the BSkyB bid with phone-hacking. This is a creepy and erroneous stance, as the two are very clearly linked.

Are we then to have more of the same? Or will Labour activists urge the party to move forward?

@13 Sylvia Clifford

Good luck with your campaign; it should be a no-brainer of course, and exactly the kind of thing a progressive party should be supporting and promising to act.

If Labour don’t do so, it will simply demonstrate how little they have actually changed since last May!

“What better time for a Labour leader to free himself from this corrosive relationship?”

The best time to do it is shortly after an election in which you have won, and no longer need the support, and are in a position to pass legislation on media pluralism and ownership. I’d imagine it would be particularly satisfying to do if you won the election due to courting the relationship. Kind of like persuading the devil to sell his soul to you instead.

The problem with the debate on media pluralism is the screen you are looking at…

Or to put it another way, even if Mr Murdoch comes to own a larger share of a diminishing market, he would have less influence than he did last year, five years ago or ten years ago (etc).

There are too many competitors to him, many of which do not have his costs, and too much information easily available. The focus on ownership of the news media (overall sales down about 6% year on year) and television (viewing on a steady downward trend as well) is rather yesterday, and to have this debate on the platform(s) that are causing it to be irrelevant is slightly ironic.

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Watchman

“The focus on ownership of the news media (overall sales down about 6% year on year) and television (viewing on a steady downward trend as well) is rather yesterday, and to have this debate on the platform(s) that are causing it to be irrelevant is slightly ironic.”

It’s not dead yet, though. How many people (honest question) get a sizeable chunk of their news from the internet, and of those how many get it from sources other than the websites of mainstream newspapers and -channels?

A lot of people are still not particularly net-savvy, and many people use it for specific applications that other media can’t deliver (email, social networking etc.). Also, many people consider information gathered online to be inherently unreliable, and for good reason. It’s not a good idea to underestimate the amount of people who buy the Sun because it’s a light and entertaining lunchtime read (or because they like the sport or celebrity section) and thus are often faced with the message that PC Muslims Ate Your House Prices.

Chaise,

If you buy the Sun and expect a celebrity section, you’re going to get a pleasant surprise when you find most of it is about celebrities, or horrible criminals. The actual political content (unless it has changed since I last looked) is surprisingly small – and blatantly populist (e.g. anti-paedophile). I think this reflects, not leads the readers (‘It was the Sun wot won it’ is one of the great lies – the Sun readers are (or were – not sure this is still the case) a pretty good representation of a large chunk of floating voters and weakly committed supporters of parties, so the Sun takes a line that reflects their opinion).

Put simply, your assumption is that people who read the Sun are taught that benefit seekers are scroungers, immigrants are bad and that PC is wrong (why the Sun supports macs is beyond me…). But the thing being, anyone who disagrees with these views is unlikely to read the Sun if they are repeated often and loudly enough to become a constant message – so the views (if they are a message) are those of the readers, or at least things the readers do not disagree with (they may not vote based on them however).

So yes, a notable chunk of the population still get their news from the Sun, but that does not mean that the attitudes there are going to influence their voting.

And also, if Mr Murdoch gained control of say the Daily Mirror, do you think he would turn it right-wing? I don’t, because he wants to make money and there is no money in alienating the majority of your readership. After all, Mr Murdoch is a republican (political belief, not American political party) but none of his British media outlets are, whereas in Australia, where republicanism is much more widespread, some of his outlets are openly republican as well. Because there is a market for it…

@ 14 Galen10
Thanks for the support. I think it will help Labour to change if we give them more confidence to do so.

@ 15 Planeshift Yes, of course it would be great to spin Murdoch along to the church and ditch him after the wedding, but life is never that straightfoward. To have reached the point where a media group backs you, deals will already have been struck and manifesto pledges written. Why not be honest now about the problems in the relationship and design policies built on decent principles and practicalities, rather than self-serving power struggles?

@ 16 Watchman I agree about the growing influence of the internet, but think you vastly underestimate the power of corporate media, particularly television. For instance, as newspaper circulations drop, BSkyB profits rise, as does its output, as does its audience, as does its impact – particularly on the future of public service broadcasting.

If anything, the debate on media pluralism is even more necessary today. (See the recent piece by Granville Williams on DemocracyFail blog.) Fortunately, the internet has provided us with more tools to have that debate.

19 Sylvia Clifford

I have a feeling a cattle prod might also come in handy…. 😉

…. I will sign up at DemocracyFail though; I approve!

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 18 Watchman

“Put simply, your assumption is that people who read the Sun are taught that benefit seekers are scroungers, immigrants are bad and that PC is wrong”

No, my assumption is that this swings both ways. The Sun will reflect its readership to some extent and the readership will reflect the Sun to some extent. More often it’ll be a more complex, two-way process.

“And also, if Mr Murdoch gained control of say the Daily Mirror, do you think he would turn it right-wing? I don’t, because he wants to make money and there is no money in alienating the majority of your readership.”

I agree – but you might see some more subtle changes. For example, lots of photos of the Labour leader in embarrassing situations during the run-up to an election Murdoch wants the Tories to win.

Please spare me the argument that he was offered the space and took it, and that was all there was to it.

Why have the Labour leadership told back benchers to not attack Murdoch on taking over SKY? Why did the Labour leadership condemn Vince Cable for the points he made about Murdoch?

Murdoch is a cancer on this country, and America. His influence should be resisted at all costs. Labour should not think that this is the way to go. They should oppose his take over of Sky and treat him as noting but the enemy.

Who can be sure what Murdoch would do to the Mirror? The Sun was, after all, a Labour paper before he bought it.

This idea of making prisoners work is worrying. Presumably this will drive wages down and increase unemployment.

@15 Planeshift: In other words, the time to ditch Murdoch was May 1997.

Murdoch would print the communist manifesto on its front page
if he thought it would help accquire full ownership of sky.
Never take ones eye off the ball,Murdochs ball is skybsky.
In my opinion even the surrender of all his UK titles would be worth it.
This oligarch plays our politiions like fish.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Ed Miliband's article for The Sun – reading between the lines http://bit.ly/e9KeGn

  2. Mick Clocherty

    RT @libcon: Ed Miliband's article for The Sun – reading between the lines http://bit.ly/e9KeGn

  3. sunny hundal

    Ed Miliband's article for The Sun yesterday – I read between the lines http://bit.ly/e9KeGn

  4. curmudgeon 1

    Ed Miliband’s article for The Sun – reading between the lines | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/3JTN9Ec via @libcon

  5. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    Ed Miliband’s article for The Sun – reading between the lines | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5vzJmYD via @libcon





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