Public Affairs: Soap box

As I write, Labour leader Ed Miliband has yet to unveil his new comms chief. The Westminster buzz is that when he does, that person will be from a broadcast background. This is a fascinating development that, for all the talk of a break from the ways of New Labour, has some serious but relevant echoes of the party's Mandelsonian past.

I was first brought into the Lib Dem press office in 2008 with the sole aim of increasing the party's broadcast presence in the run-up to the election - no mean feat given the media's initial refusal to see anything beyond the traditional red/blue narrative.

Fortunately we had a secret weapon in the form of 'twinkle-toed economic prophet' Vince Cable.

On our rounds of Millbank, I was often struck by Labour's absence. Of course, Labour was in Government and they were guaranteed coverage and were often going to be on the defensive, so there was no need for them to rush to the studios.

But times have changed and if Labour are clever, they can use broadcast media in a way they haven't done for a long while.

To judge by last Friday's excruciating Today interview, Ed needs a media training refresher pronto. Or at the very least an idea of what he is going to say (or tactfully avoid) before he sees the whites of presenters' eyes.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of Ed going on a media blitz now, the fact is that aside from being leader of the opposition with a case to make, he also has a few 'soft' weapons in his media arsenal. They include a new baby, a personable demeanour and that Blair-esque doe-eyed 'trust me' look - all factors that any savvy media operator should be able to harness effectively.

We shall have to wait to see who that person is - and if they do.

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