The Sketch: Ed's role needs a rewrite – and recasting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A wild, warrior cry came out of the back of the chamber from the visitors' bench. Was it Meryl Streep researching her next political role? She's got Fiona Mactaggart off to a T. Looks, manner, voice like a screeching brake. "THAT'S NOT AN ANSWER!" she unleashed herself at Cameron from 50 feet, halfway through PMQs.

Whatever the merits or demerits, it had the advantage of clarity. Simple; simple-minded, even. Full of brutal humanity. Terrifying, in its way. It was an example of how to impress a point on a diverse audience.

The clever, complex, Leader of the Opposition, lacking brutal humanity – I think even his friends would agree – has never made the same impression.

He went in on the shambles in the health service (98 per cent of everyone wants the Bill to be withdrawn). And don't get him started on the economy, it's going from bad to worse. Unemployment. Debt. Darkness.

He finished with a decent little trope: "He said unemployment would fall; it isn't. He said our economy would grow; it hasn't. He said, 'We're all in this together'; we're not." His backbenches very nearly joined in on the last two words.

It will all go well again when they find the right person to play Ed Miliband. The armwork is important, the face going off in all directions, the spring-loaded teeth – all these mannerisms need to be refined into an "Ed Miliband" that is acceptable to TV audiences.

And they need a message with Mactaggart clarity. What Labour is trying to say is that Cameron's big problem is arrogance.

Two counter-questions, though: Is Britain's economic malaise actually caused by Cameron and arrogance? And in point of fact, do people think Cameron is arrogant and complacent? Whatever his inner structure, he looks rather earnest and decent to many people. If you wanted to undo Cameron you'd need to think him through, from the inside out. Meryl would be able to do that, maybe she can help when she's finished playing Fiona Mactaggart.