Martin Bright

Ed Miliband has had a good week - only 200 to go

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No one would begrudge Ed Miliband the plaudits for his fine first performance at PMQs. He has made a good start and seemed to take David Cameron by surprise. The Labour leader has a small, under-resourced team, which has been devoted much of the last week to preparing him for the task of his first confrontation with the Prime MInister. This is simply not sustainable. The weekly duel, terrifying though it may be, cannot come to dominate his thinking - however good he comes to be at it, He should always bear in mind the figure of William Hague, whose Labour mirror-image he risks becoming. 

It has become a tiresome platitude, reinforced by New Labour rhetoric, that political parties must occupy the political centre ground in order to win elections in the UK. 

However, it is certainly the case that successful politicians need to be in touch with the public mood. Both Attlee and Thatcher succeeded by sensing that the public was prepared to be more radical than their opponents imagined. 

Ed Miliband could choose to move into this space. But where would such radicalism lie? In the short term, at least, there seems to be an appetite for austerity. It is unclear how long the Labour leader will have to wait for the backlash. Public sector job losses could begin to bite in the new year and provide an opportunity for Miliband. But what is the alternative proposition? I have often talked politics with Ed Miliband, but I could not begin to outline his personal credo.

There are all sorts of things he could do if he wanted to become a politician of the populist left. He could question the culture of outsourcing, which is about to mushroom across the public sector. He could propose the re-nationalisation of the railways (as the former Conservative MP Michael Brown has done). He could even opt for an ultra-protectionist, anti-immigration stance to stop the flight of white working class voters to the far right (though this would be a catastrophe). 

But he needs to recognise that, so far, all the radicalism -- in education, health and welfare -- is coming from the Coalition. It will be tempting for Ed Miliband to proceed with a relatively conservative message, warning of the grave consequences of the cuts with nothing to offer in its place. 

So far, the Labour leader's slogan could be "A little bit more left-wing than my brother". While this may have won over elements of his party, it is not the basis of a radical vision.