Pushed back against the ropes, Ed Miliband and Labour came up with some strong counter-punches to make it through another gruelling round of dirty fighting from Tory election strategists and their media backers.
The mainstream media went into full throttle beat-down mode when Boots billionaire, Stefano Pessina, warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the British electorate votes for Ed and Labour in the upcoming general election. (For the record, we had not previously heard of Mr Pessina, much less asked for his opinion.)
A relentless tsunami of ferocious body-blow headlines (above really, really bad photos of Ed) poured forth as some of Britain’s “most respected” (by whom, we know not) business leaders and a New Labourite or two lined up to put the boot in, leading to headlines such as: “Fifteen of Tony Blair’s business backers go cool on Ed Miliband” (The Telegraph) and “Ed Miliband will bankrupt Britain, bosses warn” (Daily Mail).
Labour fight back
Labour hit back with a one-two: First, by acquainting us with Mr Pessina (who it turns out is a tax-dodging exile living in Monaco); and second, by using the opportunity to promote some of its policies to clean up the tax practices of big business and secure a fairer deal for working people. One is that a Labour government would give UK overseas territories six months to compile a public register of offshore companies or be put on a “tax havens” list, potentially repatriating billions of pounds.
Businessmen and Lords claimed that Ed’s “personal attacks” were “shutting down political debate”! Labour was “anti-business”, guilty of stirring up the “politics of envy” and (according to Cameron, cheering from the side lines) displayed a “sneering hatred for business” that would cost the country 100,000 jobs (a random figure clearly pulled out of the air).
The media, firmly in Pessina’s corner, were aghast at Labour’s stand; Ed had been warned about fighting with business, now he would have to face the consequences.
But as the new week gets underway, it is fair to say “attack of the businessmen” has not had the results that Tory strategists would have hoped for.
We knew things weren’t going right in the business corner when Pessina’s spokesperson said he had been “quoted out of context”. A few days later, John Mills, Labour’s largest individual donor (and a businessman) wrote of his own experience with the press, exposing the mechanics of bringing media lies into the mainstream. In this case The Mail on Sunday started the lie, The Independent repeated the lie and Cameron used the lie to attack Ed at PMQs.
By this past weekend things had started to shift; the (relatively) more liberal media began shining a light on Tory malfeasance and asking uncomfortable questions. As the BBC online review of The Papers put it, “From Labour in difficulties to a potential Tory embarrassment” reporting on The Sunday Times story about an investigation into tax avoidance by the Tory Solicitor-General, Robert Buckland.
The Guardian broke the news of accounting scams at HSBC and The Sunday Mirror, meanwhile, condemned the “fat cat lives” of those on the boards of big accountancy firms, and reported that Cameron had “no regrets” about appointing the HSBC chief to a top government post offering advice on minimising tax to wealthy clients.
Corporate Britain also turned out to be less worried about Ed than about the Tories dragging the country out of Europe, which reportedly “sends shivers down the spine of big business” and has motivated the millionaire founder of Ecotricity to donate a six-figure sum to Labour.
As for the treacherous New Labourites, they appear to have been brought to heel for the time being with Blair pledging to do everything he can to get Ed and Labour into power (yes, we know, a double-edged sword at best).
After taking the latest below-the-belt bashing, Labour is again slightly ahead in polls released at the weekend.
The Guardian asked (somewhat plaintively, we thought): ‘Pilloried by the press, beset by inner turmoil: how is Labour still in the lead? The Times came from the other angle: if Labour is as bad as it appears, why are the Conservatives not well ahead?
Maybe they should ask instead how come Ed is still standing, given the coordinated Tory/Crosby/media attacks in which everything plus three kitchen sinks has been thrown at him for the past four years, non-stop.
Ed’s leadership has been marked by his ability to choose the right fight, hold his corner and roll with the punches. The Labour Party, the unions and the left in general must stand firm with him to win GE2015 and rid the country of the Tory scum and their LibDem enablers.
Post election is when we hold his feet to the fire to ensure he delivers a government that works for the majority.