Steve Kean/Ed Miliband: the similarities are striking

As any football fan knows: losing the supporters can be tolerated. It’s when you lose the dressing room that the sack looms

Ed just about has his 'dressing room' on side but the 'fans' are turning
Dylan Sharpe
On 5 January 2012 12:41

It’s been a tough start to the new season.

Polls show that the fans aren’t on side and now high-profile colleagues are taking to the papers to slander what good work he’s done.

There can be no argument, Ed Miliband is in a hole.

The same could also be said of Steve Kean (beleaguered manager of Blackburn Rovers) …although his team did claim a famous win at Old Trafford over the Christmas period, so perhaps even he is currently feeling sorry for Ed.

While politics and football shouldn’t normally mix (witness David Mellor in a Chelsea scarf or a perma-grinned Tony Blair playing head tennis with Kevin Keegan) – the parallels between managing a Premiership football club and leading a political party are more compelling than one might think.

Smoothly and delicately manage a team of big personalities on whom your success as a leader will be judged: check. Engage in serious and hard work throughout the week but ultimately get judged on one performance in front of the cameras every seven days: check. Look good in sportswear…ahem

Like Steve Kean, Ed Miliband is not the fans’ choice. Installed by faceless back-room masters, he has struggled to win over the long-term supporters. Brief wins (phone hacking – beating Arsenal 4-3) have been followed up with miserable defeats (the EU response – losing 2-1 at home to Bolton).

But while Steve has had to face the ignominy of a stadium full of supporters chanting for his sacking each week, Ed has received his weekly job report from the opinion polls – the latest one coming on Monday courtesy of LabourList – a home fans website that is usually onside.

Today things have taken a turn for the worse for Ed with Lord Glasman’s intervention – the political equivalent of when Kean’s former mentor, Sam Allardyce, told the papers that Steve wasn’t up to the job.

But it’s not yet fatal – as any football fan knows, managers can take personal attacks from fans, former players, greats of the game and even past leaders – it’s when they lose the dressing room that the chop can only be round the corner.

The ousting of Thatcher, the quiet removal of IDS, even the Brown aborted coup – each was started from within the ranks and the occupant of the big chair was gone a few months later.

Ed is safe for the moment. But if the Shadow Cabinet begins to question his leadership, then it’s time to start looking over his shoulder.  

Dylan Sharpe works in political PR and is the former Head of Press for the NO to AV campaign

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