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Ed Miliband’s message is striking a chord amid all the media negativity re him as message-carrier

Posted on 10 January 2012 | 9:01am

Today’s Financial Times has a full page ad (and a right-hand page 7 at that) for the Business in the Community awards. Down at the bottom of the page are a number of companies and their logos. The companies, corporate sponsors, presumably shelled out for the ad and thus have their little place above the logo of The Prince’s Charities. These include banks, like Bank of America Merrill Lynch, car companies, supermarkets, M and S for a bit of British middle-class respectability.

What is interesting about the ad is that the biggest headline, and therefore the one that catches the eye ahead of the little logos, reads as follows: ‘Cultivating responsible business.

I draw it to your attention to illustrate an interesting phenomenon – Ed Miliband’s messages on the economy are setting the agenda and speaking to a changed mood among the electorate and among some sectors and leaders in business. Yet we are constantly told by the media that he is not cutting through to the public.

I have written here many times about the concept of the ‘prism’, the layering that media conventional wisdom lays over a person or issue, and which then dictates whether something is news or not. The current prism re Ed is negative. So a poll that reflects well on his performance does not get covered. One that reflects badly gets big coverage. Minor errors – the Blackbusters typo is a good example – are turned into major stories. Major interventions are reduced, and dismissed.

The speech he made seeking to redefine capitalism in the wake of the financial crash came pre-TNP (totally negative prism,) so the ideas came to be heard and debated a little. What the ad, and much else in the polls and public debate tells me, not least some of the statements David Cameron has been making on executive pay, is that his messages are getting through even if he as message carrier is not seen as positively as he would like.

So the message for him, as he makes another speech today on the consequences for politics of the changed economic circumstances, is that if you are confident in the strength of the message, you just have to keep going. Tough out a few storms, push back on a load of negativity, and the prism will change. And if and when it does, the message will get through even more quickly and with greater effect for his having endured all the catcalls.

— Four pages on fro the ad, day 2 of the FT’s ‘crisis in capitalism’ series. Headline ‘Promises that proved ultimately empty’. Another piece on politicians? No, all about the banks, their role in the crisis, with the strapline that unless they can better demonstrate their usefulness to society, they face a debilitating battle against new regulation. Pretty on message for Ed I would say.

— Over the page and Philip Stephens has a column on Cameron’s shifting rhetoric (whilst rightly he points out the gap between words and actions). But the headline ‘Cameron signs up to the Occupy movement’ is further evidence that the arguments – and the Tories – are moving Ed’s way.

  • TheMichaelMoran

    I’m a bog standard floating voter who listens to the Today programme, reads a few different papers & watches Newsnight now and then. 

    I have absolutely no idea WHAT Miliband stands for other than opposition to whatever policies the Tories suggest. 

    I’m sure he has policies, and he may well be communicating them to ‘business leaders’ but as far as the actual electorate are concerned he hasn’t actually said anything yet.

  • Colwiles

    Your loyalty to the Labour leader may be clouding your judgement. You know all about the cruelty of the media and the importance of appearance. Ed just does not look right, sound right or speak right. The message is irrelevant in that context. The sooner Labour ditches him the better

  • Chris lancashire

    Talking of shifting rhetoric, good to note that Ed M has, at last, realised that defecit reduction – not more borrowing – is the priority ans will say so in his speech today. Taken 18 months mind, but praiseworthy nevertheless. That leaves the ridiculous Ed (“cuts too far, too fast”) Balls fairly isolated.

  • Jacquie R

    So glad you are drawing attention to the negative media coverage Ed is receiving. Blogged on this yesterday at DemocracyFail. It’s a spoof (a bit schooboyish, admittedly) but I tried to make some important points.

    For those interested, it’s called “MickyLeaks – The EdMail” at

  • Ehtch

    Good analogy using the prism as a person, and polarizing light filters as the media, who block whatever they want from red to violent, sorry, violet, to show up part of the spectrum that would sell the most papers/get most viewers (Sky/Fox!), even if it is not the point that is being made, and more or less totally ignoring that point. And yes, I remember my physics, Snell’s law and all that.

    Tory friends again in the London-centric medialand helping their mates by rubbishing and trying to make a fool of the current Labour leader. So business as usual then, so it seems. Ah well, the World turns.

  • Paul

    Confidence in the strength of your message requires a confident delivery of the message, something which I think Ed struggles with. Delivery is so important.

  • Ehtch

    And furthermore, have noticed Tony Blair has been rotweilled by the press lately on tax or something. Think the media needs to look at the otherside more for real humongous tax dodging on a vast scale, methinks.

  • Peter V

    Ed Milliband sounded pretty assured on the Today program this morning. Its three years to the next election – let the government keep digging for a bit. Ed isn’t allowing a bit of negative press to undermine his agenda or his self-belief.

  • Michele

    Can you stop wittering on about London in that prejudiced way? 
    This map shows whether London itself is ‘Tory’ (vs: whether only the outer/’greater London’ areas are).
    You can find out for yourself how that transposes in to numbers of people.

    While ever New Labour will not support Ken they will be offering London back to the manipulator BoJo on a plate.

    • Ehtch

      I am on about boardrooms of media organisations, who drive the machine.

  • Andyatchapel

    It may be good politics but it is lousy economics so lets all get further into the mire whilst feeling righteous. Sad that the neo-con approach based on ‘common sense’, ie received prejudice,  has re -conquered the left as well as the right and that the lessons of economic history have once again been ignored.   

  • Michele

    I don’t think that the professional media is responsible for all the distortion we read and hear. 
    A lot of their fuel comes nowadays from the internet, lifted from members of the public via the professionals’ trawling of forums and the twittersphere to gather something that isn’t really ‘public’ opinion anyway.
    Those of us that post anywhere aren’t typical and most post-moderated forums end up looking extreme / reactionary (by being  ‘moderated’ by gangs using the Report feature and decisions being made either by quantity of Reports or by paid mods off-shore). 

    EM has been let off by the professionals very lightly imhoo regarding Diane Abbott’s disgraceful spouting of last week, any disapproval switched instead to be about his typo. 
    He’s very lucky that the likeliest popular candidate is another person with the ‘problem’ of a close family member sharing the front bench … don’t think we’ll be going there again for a while.

  • Janiete

    I know we keep returning to this subject (well I do anyway) but it is of vital importance to the Labour Party that our message reaches the public. Right-wing parties can always rely on their friends in the media to give them a hearing, while simultaneously denigrating, perverting or completely ignoring an opposing message.
    High trade union membership, which promoted political awareness among many ‘natural’ Labour supporters, has long gone. Few, if any, of the current crop of newspapers, consider it important to convey facts to the public at all, let alone give information which might encourage a left-leaning view of the world. Even Polly Toynbee, one of the few fighting our corner, recently complained that the public wouldn’t know about details of Government proposals, unless Labour politicians told them. Well, call me old fashioned but I thought that’s what ‘news’papers and broadcast media ‘news’ reports should be doing.
    It now seems that all journalists are commentators or analysts. Passing on details to us appears practically irrelevant, or at the very least of little importance compared with promoting their own or the prevailing editorial view of an issue. As such the message reaching the public can easily be controlled by the messengers and made to fit a political narrative of those pulling strings behind the scenes.
    I thought it would be useful to watch BBC’s coverage of Ed Miliband’s speech today as it would demonstrate the prevailing ‘editorial view’ of EM and the Labour Party. Early on several journalists unsurprisingly set a negative context to the speech including Norman Smith and Iain Watson but the main BBC News 24 report was fronted by Carole Walker. Even I was shocked when I analysed its content:
    Total clip                         120 seconds
    C Walker speaking         78 s  (of which only 26s reporting actual       
                                                         speech content)
    E Miliband speaking       28 s (inc 11s answering journalist’s
                                                       question about being popular with
    M Fallon (??) speaking   14 s 
    Of the total piece only 43 seconds were dedicated to ‘information’ with just 17s of filmed footage of EM’s actual speech, only 3s more than that given to Michael Fallon! 43 sec of info and the rest overwhelmingly negative comment. This is not impartial reporting.
    We really don’t pay our licence fee for the BBC to manipulate us like this. They are breaking the BBC charter with reports like this and we deserve better.  

  • AC, before I start, hope your over the black dog, it can be a pain! Right thought I would check out the blog, before a click to the link, I thought AC will be spinning for EM again!! And what do I find, YES your spinning for a loser. You had Tony Blair to spin for, the UK voter loved him, well up to Iraq, he was a great actor, okay by the end he was Lady Thatcher and the Poll tax, I am right they are wrong, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. In essence TB was the kind of Leader that does half the work for you, EM is the kind you have to do all the work for, its never going to happen AC, time for the dark arts of New Labour, how about the former Labour Chancellor for leader, AD might look like your local bank manager, so did Sir John Major, and he won in 1992. In other words time for the Blair mob to act like the Blair mob and get rid of EM, it takes 12% of Labour MPs To call for an election, that should be a job for you AC, time to get real, or do you fancy seeing Labour out of power for 18 years, that’s a lot of black dog days!

  • Anonymous

    I hope people will soon tire of the relentlessly negative coverage Ed Miliband is receiving.  It only says to me that the gene pool of journalism narrows by the day – independent thinkers are few, it seems.  John Humphrys hit a new low today, I think.  

  • Michele

    Harrumph ….. growl. 

    Thought you were generalising like so many of us in the past week….

  • Jacquie R

    Tonight, on Channel 4 News (yes, decent C4 news) one of the most important Labour leader speeches in the past year was given about 20 seconds. At this rate we will have Tory governments for decades.

  • Reaguns

    Some of us noted on here that wiser heads may prevail on Ed, such as Alastair and Peter Oborne who supported his speech on Responsible Capitalism. Peter said at the time, Ed had set the terms of the debate on morality.

    Can he capitalise on it now by saying he is happy with any steps Cameron takes in that direction for the good of the country, or will he play politics? The former would be the best way of playing them.

    My comedy political moment of 2011 was still Andrew Neil ripping Andy Burnham apart on Predators and Producers. However Ed made a great defense of his position the following day.

  • Reaguns

    Its all up to Ed.

    If I was an Ed supporter, I’d be happy that people are slagging off his voice, his geekiness, his typos, the fact he doesn’t look like a leader etc.

    Rather than his morals, his ideas, or his defence of his positions, all of which I think are good.

    If he won the election, it would be a bit of a victory for ideas versus presentation. I’d prefer our politics got away from spin and handsome patronisers and got back to conviction politics.

    Great article by Peter Oborne on this:

  • Reaguns

    Agreed. I think Ed Balls is behind “cuts too far and too fast” and “lets solve borrowing too much by borrowing more”. Ed should follow his colleagues document “In The Black Labour”.

    Labour voters, generalising, want to pay for more services with higher taxes.
    There is no reason to assume that working class voters cannot understand that borrowing is bad.

    Ed should favour responsible government as well as responsible capitalism. And when he is complaining about predators vs producers, he should make sure that labour is no longer numbered among the predators.

  • Reaguns

    What lessons are those – from all those countries who got trouble from borrowing and then borrowed their way out? Examples please. (And good luck with that.)

    Even Paul Krugman says there is too much debt for heavens sake.

    And Keynes would turn in his grave if he thought Brown and Balls ideas were called Keynesian!

  • Michele

    I didn’t hear the interview so don’t know whether your comment about gene pools is referring to Diane Abnott’s use of the same reservation recently (just as I don’t know whether she was referring to candidates coming from just one family or something else).

  • Michele

    Oh you’ve unhooked your own far right forum from your icon.

    Deary me.

  • Jacquie R

    Great work. And did you notice BBC main news, in it’s truncated coverage of speech, chose to vox pop completely untypical Labour voters in HENDON?

  • Michele

    Thanks to LibDems (Class of 2010) and the coalition’s undeserved majority of around 100 seats that Nick Clegg’s holding of hands with David Cameron led to (something that the country had not chosen) it does seem the coalition is unassailable.

    I therefore doubt any paid commentator is going to bang on about Labour policies, there aren’t many heroes in those professions.

    A commentator this evening has posited that the new railway budget go-ahead is setting up the Tories in 24 marginal seats along the route where the effects of it will be positive for them whereas those where it will be negative are staunch Tory anyway.

    I don’t think he was making this statement out of any concerns for LibDems  …… or that there will be any so-labelled candidates in 2015 anyway.

  • Trevor Smith

    It is pretty obvious to me that the  BBC’s political staff have come to the view (collectively or dictatorially?) that Ed Miliband is to be belittled at every opportunity.
    Just how an experienced reporter such as Norman Smith can in all seriousness complain that details of economic policies 3 years before the next general election were unforthcoming in Miliband’s speech yesterday.
    I wonder just how much detail he would get from George Osborne about his 2015 budget?
    The tactic by BBC reporters of Labour activities is to consume a majority of the allotted time with their own comments leaving a few seconds for Labour to get their point over

  • Policypurple

    Come on it’s a bit of a naff speech.

    Just picking up on some of the lingua: Surely it’s not a relishing challenge. You are the leader. Therefore one should ‘direct’, not relish a mess.*Far too many ‘But’. 38 apparently. More ‘Will’ is needed.

    Labour stands for: ‘fairness and fighting injustice’.

    But there was: ‘optimism, coordination, and persistence’ above.Below is nonsense:’First, reforming our economy so we have long-term wealth
    creation with rewards fairly shared.

    Second, acting against vested
    interests that squeeze the living standards of families.

    And third, making choices that
    favour the hard-working majority’.-Yes of course!: Down pit is obviously better: ‘The school-leaver in my constituency who years ago would have
    gone into mining or manufacturing but who now faces an insecure, low-paying

  • Richard

    Having watched the speech live, I thought Ed’s delivery and presence were much improved on last years speeches. The content however was lightweight and nebulous. If you want to get him a  hearing in the news, he will have to start saying something which defines his opposition party, and be understandable.
    The “Too far, too fast” mantra held no water as he would not cost his alternative. Rubishing New Labour did not help. Now he wants to stand on the middle ground and there is no room there.
    PS All the whingeing about press coverage and bias will never resonate with the public who buy the tripe gutter press, as criticism of their chosen paper is taken as criticism of them.
    “Wonderful articles” burried in the FT will make no difference. It is time costed policy alternatives were made available to the voting public.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know anything about Diane Abbott’s remarks!  But I wasn’t making a point  about race – only about the social and political complexion of journalists, which seems pretty monochrome to me…

  • Pingback: With the right-wing media kicking Ed, ‘Blairite zombie’ conspiracy theories from the left don’t exactly help him | Alastair Campbell()

  • It’s a Conservative Blog, not for right or far left, just sees the World as it is, and wish Lady T was back in No 10.

  • Gilliebc

    ‘……and wish Lady T was back in No 10’

    Are you nuts?

  • Janiete

    ‘If you want to get him a hearing in the news, he will have to start saying something which defines his opposition party, and be understandable.’

    This really isn’t the point. Inevitably individuals will rate political view points differently having heard them. The central problem is journalists/editors are witholding this information from the public. THEY are deciding if the message is worth conveying to us, according to their own agenda.

    In a democracy, in political matters WE should be making these judgements, not the media. Unless we have facts and details, accurately reported, we can’t!

  • Richard

    News editors will decide what to put into their bulletins/papers in accordance with the stories which have broken/evolved in the recent past. Another re-relaunch speech, without anything new to say, may well get minimal coverage.
    Your collective paranoia will result in a wilderness period for the party. The conservatives dumped three duff leaders after Thatcher, without compunction.
    Despite his disloyalty and obvious flaws labour persisted with Brown, and allowing the parliamentary party to have Ed M foisted upon them by the unions was a disaster. This will be compounded by whingeing about the BBC etc showing political bias.

  • Janiete

    We delude ourselves if we think media bias will disappear if only we choose another leader; it won’t. Time will tell whether EM is, or is not, the right person to lead us into the next election and it will be for the Labour Party to determine that in due course in private. The relative merit of any Labour leader is not the issue I’m raising here. It’s that the publicly funded BBC should not be filtering out a message from any mainstream party because it doesn’t fit their own agenda. The fact that their interference in the message is so widely accepted as ‘to be expected’ demonstrates how deep seated the problem is. It would be very difficult to get privately funded media outlets to do anything but peddle the views of their owners. He who pays the piper calls the tune. But WE pay for the BBC. Their remit is to serve the interests of the public and in news and political affairs they have a responsibility to inform and educate. As such, is it not reasonable to expect most news reporting to contain predominantly factual information? Currently, it doesn’t. In political matters it is mainly comment and opinion. It’s time for the BBC to raise its game, to follow the Charter more carefully and take seriously the need to ‘inform’ the public. Who knows, if they set the standard, others just might follow.