The Week in Review: What just happened?
So apparently Ed Miliband is prime minister in waiting all of a sudden. If you've been on holiday for the last week this may seem like a strange, even insane, state of affairs. But while you were away something odd happened. Miliband absolutely killed it at the Labour conference.
Consider this: Cameron this morning has two senior Tories implying he's lost contact with the party's core support. A poll for the friendly (friendly!) Sun newspaper found 20% of voters associate him with a snake. His own chief whip is avoiding the Tory party conference as he tries to escape the aftershocks of the 'pleb' row. And a survey of economists found that any more austerity measures will spook the markets, suggesting his entire economic platform (which is also his entire political platform) is on very shaky ground. Oh, and he made another whopping U-turn.
The Miliband coverage, on the other hand, is like a news report from a parallel dimension where attributes like intelligence, capacity for abstract thought and possessing too many teeth for a human mouth are valued as political necessities by the British public. A YouGov poll showed he was making up ground in his last remaining area of weakness: personal ratings. As things stand, 27% of people now think he would make the best prime minister, just four points below Cameron's 31%.
How did he do it? By being very clever in a number of different ways. He made an audacious land grab for 'One Nation' from the Tories. This allowed him to make a speech just as left-wing as last year but which political commentators described as 'centrist'. They’re not hard to fool, these political commentators.
He memorised over an hour of content and delivered it in a casual, passionate, funny way. And, most heart-warmingly, he gave a speech with a beginning, a middle and an end, rich in thematic content, with a nuanced and relevant line of argument.
His brother again refused to attend, saying it would be a distraction. It was a serious miscalculation. By the time Ed wound up, no-one cared less where David was. That is the mark of the younger sibling's success. He is no longer the 'wrong brother'.
Even Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, the smiling vultures who will sweep in to the claim the leadership if Miliband falls on his face in 2015, were struck relatively silent. Balls did a bit of landgrabbing himself, when he focused on 'national interest' – the Tory 2010 election slogan – in his speech. It was quickly lost in the shadow of Ed. Oh, and he cheated at football. Probably maybe. Cooper spent most of her time making more 'plebs' jokes, because we haven't heard enough of those at the Lib Dem conference. All in all, it felt like Miliband was safe at the top of the party, his position secure and on the verge of being lent an ear by the electorate.
Now it's Cameron's turn, but the omens do not look good. He has Boris being funny, aides being disloyal and an increasingly feral media pack to deal with. They smell blood. It’s because he's bleeding.