Miliband appeared to seize the initiative over the phone hacking scandal this weekend, hitting the headlines with a call to block Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB takeover bid.
In an interview on BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the Labour leader said he would use an opposition day debate to force a Commons vote on whether the BSkyB takeover should be delayed until the police inquiry into the News of the World phone hacking scandal is concluded.
However, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle has warned that the Labour leader needs to be cautious of his stance over the scandal, especially on any criticisms of David Cameron’s judgements over former comms head Andy Coulson.
Former Tory party treasurer, Lord Ashcroft, has accused Miliband's own head of communications, Tom Baldwin, of using private detectives to hack into his bank account to investigate his controversial party donations when Baldwin was a journalist at The Times.
‘Lord Ashcroft is after his head of communications Tom Baldwin. This was a controversial and risky appointment. Now that Baldwin is in Michael Ashcroft’s sights Ed Miliband must be very careful that what he accuses the PM of over Andy Coulson does not come back to haunt him. I would not want Michael Ashcroft as an enemy,’ said Bingle.
Grayling’s MD James Acheson-Gray said: ‘Miliband’s reading of the mood of the country on this issue is certainly sound, but if Lord Ashcroft’s allegations are proven to have foundations he could end up looking rather foolish.’
Portcullis Public Affairs' MD Stephen Day suggested that Miliband had ‘played the last week almost perfectly’ and any attempts by the Conservatives to call into question Baldwin’s appointment might be flawed.
‘It is the first time since he became leader of the opposition that he has clearly made the running and is shaping the political weather,’ he said.
‘There is danger for Miliband in attempts by Ashcroft et al to draw Tom Baldwin into the mire and time will tell how successful these prove. It is to be noted however that Baldwin, rightly or wrongly, is a Labour Party appointment – Coulson was the PM’s appointment and was on the Government payroll. It is a nil sum game for Cameron and the Conservatives to simply try to level the playing field with Labour. They will come out worse.’
The Labour leader’s line of attack on News International and the Government had been previously questioned by a number of public affairs operators.