King Edward is treating voters like subjects
Labour's man who would be king continues to display the same kind of arrogance he accuses his political opponents of
It was clear at Ed Miliband's summer drinks party this week that the man had already made up his mind before being told that he should outflank the Tories and back a referendum on Europe.
From his wry smile and knowing reply that “I am going to do the right thing for the country”, it didn’t take a genius to predict that the Labour leader was about to reject that option. Today, surprise surprise, Ed argues that an in/out referendum would be “wrong”.
Miliband genuinely believes that he is doing the right thing for Britain, but even that statement itself betrays much of what is going wrong for Labour under his direction. He thinks he knows what is best for voters, but he isn’t willing to trust voters to agree with him.
It’s the same on welfare. Ed really does believe that fighting the Coalition’s welfare reforms is best for the British people, but regardless of whether or not they agree. Unfortunately for Labour, on welfare and on Europe, they don’t.
Many will commend his principles; unlike certain Labour predecessors Miliband finds the idea of pragmatically conceding ideological ground in search of votes abhorrent. But in truth such a stance deserves little credit. It is a stark admission not of being an immovable principled force, but of his abject failure to convince the public of his arguments. If he is as right as he so strongly believes, why have his attempts to persuade voters to agree with him gone so catastrophically wrong?
It is more than stubbornness; Ed’s position is blind arrogance.
By refusing to listen to the public on welfare, even more impertinently telling voters they cannot be trusted with a referendum on Europe, he displays the very same breathtaking hubris and contempt for the public that he accuses the 'Old Etonians' on the government benches of.
One senior Miliband aide tells me how the Labour leader has self-confidence in unrivalled abundance. “If four or five of us disagree with him on something, he will consider it, and then tell us that we are wrong.” If they have a bad day at the office he will not take the Gordon Brown Nokia-hurling approach, but rather stay smiling, safe in the knowledge that he is doing “the right thing”.
Ed would make a fantastic dictator, a great monarch even. In a position of absolute authority, with no consideration for the opinions of those pesky party apparatchiks or, god forbid, that infernal electorate, Miliband would be in his element.
Back in the real world however, he has a problem. Voters don’t take kindly to being treated like subjects. Labour’s referendum decision today will not be forgotten.
Alex Wickham is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @WikiGuido
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