Alex Hilton: Miliband needs a comms lionheart

Strangely, Labour's media profile since electing Ed Miliband is somewhat lower than when there was no party leader.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

The message from Labour HQ is that they are in it for the long haul; they are bedding in, pacing themselves. It's no coincidence the party is seeking a head of comms: this turgid approach is indicative of a vacuum.

That's not to say there are not talented people around the leader, but there seems to be an overwhelming focus on internal matters. There is a struggle for power between the leader, the party's National Executive Committee, the unions Unite and GMB and, of course, the deputy leader Harriet Harman, for whom Miliband used to photocopy and make tea.

The party's handling of the Phil Woolas affair is an example of this jostling. Woolas, a former immigration minister and MP for Oldham East, was found guilty last week of knowingly publishing untruths about his Liberal Democrat opponent and his election was consequently declared void.

The Labour Party reaction was instant, with Harman declaring there is no way back for Woolas as a Labour MP, even if he overturns the ruling at a planned judicial review. However, a shadow cabinet insider described Miliband as 'late to the party' on the Woolas reaction due to the birth of his second child.

The role that needs filling requires someone who will step in on occasions like these and stamp the leader's authority on a decision. Either Harman's line should have been endorsed by the leader or she should have been prevented from bouncing the leader and the party into that line. The absence of either tack simply made Miliband look weak.

Miliband needs someone who will step brazenly into every political minefield and lead the team safely through; someone who will not dance daintily around the many, varied egos you find at the upper levels of any power structure. Until someone with sufficient political awareness and the toughness to carry it off is appointed, those at Labour HQ will continue pacing themselves. Because that's what pedestrians do.

Alex Hilton is a political communications adviser and former Labour parliamentary candidate

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