Ed Miliband is up against a sense of entitlement

Labour has no ideology to offer disaffected voters. Plus, the England football team also fail to inspire, and the case for censorship
Click to follow
The Independent Online

And how – to use a formulation much favoured by the Crossbencher column on the old-style Sunday Express – is Mr Ed Miliband this bright Easter morn? What thoughts swirl through his head as, well wrapped up against the unseasonable Arctic temperatures, he wanders through the early spring verdure?

At a guess, disagreeable ones. On the plus side, the Labour Party is riding high in the opinion polls, if only by default, while the closest thing to a political rival that Mr Miliband possesses – his brother – has announced his intention of upping sticks and high-tailing it to the Land of the Free. On the down side, Mr Miliband has had last week to digest the ominous news that even at a time of economic stagnation and Osborne-induced blight, a majority of the public still thinks him less fiscally competent than his opponents on the government front bench.

In fact it is worse than this, and Mr Miliband's room for manoeuvre about as limited as that of an elephant in a saloon bar. He can't win any ideological battles for the simple reason that there are none: an incoming Labour government will only be able to preside over a more emollient version of what already exists, and he knows it. The newly constituted People's Assembly, of which my colleague Owen Jones has written so vigorously, will be no help at all as its animating force is a coalition of trade unions, of whose existence no modern Labour leader likes to be reminded and whose capacity for frightening a nervous electorate should never be underestimated.

And then there are those voters. What do they want? Here, theoretically, Mr Miliband's task ought to be a whole lot easier, for there must be several million ground-down, cash-strapped, ever-striving lower-middle-class people in this country for whom a party at least notionally bent on fairer shares and the redistribution of resources ought to be a natural home, but who will persist in voting Conservative and Liberal Democrat and believing everything that the Daily Mail tells them. And so Mr Miliband's job is to detach them from their ancestral redoubt while allowing them to preserve their sense of entitlement and class solidarity. It is not so much a matter of politics but one of psychology. Needless to say, it will be incredibly difficult to bring off, but I wish Mr Miliband well.


It was at about the halfway stage of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Montenegro that I realised I was feeling thoroughly unpatriotic and, shocking as it is to admit this, wanted England to lose, which, when it came to it, they very nearly did. Why was this? Some of it was simple annoyance brought about by one of the most regular sights in sports broadcasting – the talking up of a mediocre side's chances by pundits who should know better. A little more of it was brought on by a faint suspicion, particularly as the game went on, that certain of those present were less than enthused by the prospect of representing their national side and would have preferred to be elsewhere.

Much of this disillusionment, though, was to do with straightforward distaste at some of the personalities on display. Watching the England players at work, it is impossible not to find an alternative commentary playing in your head, which goes something like: the man who narrowly evaded an assault charge has just passed it to the man who declared himself professionally slighted by the offer of £55,000 a week while the serial love-rat lurks somewhere by the halfway line.

Premiership footballers very often maintain that they never aspire to be role models and should not be treated as such. On the other hand, professional sportsmen will always reside in this category, whether they like it or not, by virtue of their distinction, and they might as well get used to it. As someone whose first coherent memory is of the 1966 World Cup Final, it was a very bad moment when I came upon an early 1990s press report revealing that Bobby Moore had been taken ill while editing the sports pages of one of David Sullivan's Sunday morning torso-fests. No doubt livings have to be earned, but to these eyes it was the moral equivalent of robbing a poor box.


As the debate about children's exposure to online pornography continues to rage, the Conservative MP Claire Perry has taken the opportunity of stating the case for censorship. Naturally this has gone down badly in liberal circles: "rooted in the wrong attitude" as one commentator put it, which begs the question: what exactly is the right attitude to 10-year-olds accessing Miss Ezi-Overflow and her services? But in the wider cultural context, of course, Ms Perry has a point.

The great advantage of literary censorship, of course, is that it encourages writers to up their game, to find ingenious, and sometimes aesthetically innovative, ways of evading the proscriptions forced upon them. Anthony Powell's pre-Lady Chatterley trial sex scenes, done mostly via oblique dialogue with occasional references to garments shed in the process, are some of the funniest things he ever wrote.

Call me a reactionary, but the institution of a British Literary Censorship Department, such as the Republic of Ireland used to have, bent on rooting out smut and gratuitousness, would transform the state of English Literature overnight.