While the focus remains fixed on the dramas of Coalitionville, it’s worth remembering that today’s votes are meaningful for Ed Miliband too. The Labour leader may not be facing the prospect of resignations, nor even outcry, at their various outcomes. But this is, nonetheless, the first major electoral moment of his leadership. He might well be judged on it.
In which case, much will depend on the extent to which Labour advances in England have already been priced into the electoral calculus. If the party’s footsoldiers regard sweeping gains — of perhaps around 1,000 seats — as some sort of default, then attention may turn instead to the turnaround in favour of the SNP in Scotland, and to the likely defeat for Yes to AV. The narrative surrounding Miliband could flip from one of attainment to one of disappointment.
If disgruntlement is to come, then I reckon it might be around the Labour’s leader’s slim policy offering. In a snappy round-up of the latest MiliNews over at FT Westminster, Jim Pickard puts the issue bluntly: “I would ask the party about policies, if only it had any.” We have heard Miliband say a lot, but we still have little idea of what he would do.
There are some who claim that this isn’t a problem, that it’s all part of the plan. After all, Cameron took some time to flesh out the rickety bones of his agenda, so the early part of a leadership can be all about the tone, not the detail. But, as I see it, that argument falls down for Ed Miliband on two counts.
The first of these is simply that the national debate is more involved than it has been for some time.