Dan Hodges, Ed Miliband and a touch of class warfare

May 8, 2014
Nigel Horne

Telegraph blogger goes ballistic over Labour’s new party political spoof. Does he have a point?

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HAS the Daily Telegraph political blogger Dan Hodges – former Labour Party staffer, uber-Blairite and son of the film actress Glenda Jackson – gone bonkers or suffered a major sense-of-humour failure? Or has he put his finger on a concern troubling some Labour supporters – that, whatever the opinion polls might suggest, Ed Miliband is not going to win the 2015 general election?

In his latest Telegraph column, Hodges takes aim at a new Labour party political broadcast uploaded on YouTube this week. Hodges doesn’t just hate it – he thinks it is proof that by playing the class card, Labour is throwing away the chance of victory next May.

The object of Hodges’s ire is a three-minute black and white film titled The Un-Credible Shrinking Man which targets – mercilessly if not always hilariously – the Lib Dem party leader. It is set at the Cabinet table where ‘Nick Clegg’ is gradually beaten into submission by a bullying ‘David Cameron’ to the hurrahs of fellow toffee-nosed Tory ministers.

‘Clegg’ gradually shrinks in size - just like Grant Williams in the 1957 sci-fi film The Incredible Shrinking Man - until he is a mere doll-sized figure, left alone to fend for himself against a now gigantic Downing Street cat.

You get the picture. Like a lot of spoofs, it’s not as funny as its creators thought it might be, but it’s not that bad either and, on one level at least, it does its job – which is to (a) get talked about (how many party political broadcasts achieve that?) and (b) target disaffected Lib Dem voters by mocking their leader as a man who has abandoned his principles (on tuition fees, etc) for the sake of sharing power with the Tories.

But Hodges is left desperately unimpressed. “It’s not just the ludicrous caricature of the Conservatives – including a gratuitous dig at the late Baroness Thatcher,” he writes. “Or the infantile portrayal of Nick Clegg. Or the fact it seeks to treat the electorate like they’re sniggering schoolchildren.

“It proves conclusively that Labour is no longer serious about winning the next election. It has no serious strategy, or serious policy, or any intention of convincing the nation it is serious about governing.

“Instead the people who run it – or pretend to run it – are playing a game. They are living out a self-indulgent student fantasy in which they get to strike poses, and shout slogans, and scream ‘Toff!’ at every passing Tory they see.”

He concludes: “Labour has sent a clear message. ‘We’re just not a serious party of government’.”

Hodges’s ballistic missile does not come out of the blue. He is a fully signed-up Blairite who wanted David not Ed Miliband to lead the Labour party and has long argued that Ed is steering a course too far to the left.

Nor is it the first time he’s shown his disapproval of people taking “gratuitous digs” against Thatcher. This came up a year ago when he urged Labour backbenchers to show respect at a special session of Parliament following her death.

But Glenda Jackson - star of A Touch of Class and Women in Love and since 1992 the Labour MP for Hampstead - totally ignored her son’s advice and launched into a speech in which she criticised Thatcher for treating “vices as virtues” and called her “a woman, but not on my terms”.

The next day, Hodges wrote a very touching column which began “I tried to warn you, Mum. I really did…” and yet concluded: “I think the House of Commons assembled on Wednesday to honour a woman of conviction. And like it or not, a woman of conviction was what it got to see.”

Will he show the same humility if Team Miliband can prove him wrong about the coming general election?

We may not have long to wait to discover whether Hodges is on the right track. In two weeks’ time, the latest megapoll of marginal seats commissioned by the Tory peer Michael Ashcroft will be released. For polling anoraks, this is just as interesting as the results of the local or EU elections, due the same weekend.

Lord Ashcroft’s last such poll, conducted in September 2013, showed Labour enjoying an 8.5 per cent swing in the marginals, compared with a six per cent swing nationally – enough to guarantee Miliband victory by 70 seats or more.

Recent national polling, however, has been far less positive for Labour: the Populus monthly aggregate shows Labour’s lead has been gradually slipping – mainly due to the slowing down of disaffected Lib Dem voters saying they’ll switch to Labour. (Hence, Labour’s party political.)

If Ashcroft’s new poll shows a similar falling-off of Lib Dem switchers to Labour in the all-important marginals, then it will boost Hodges’s argument that Team Miliband needs to do an awful lot more to secure victory than put out funny films.

As Mike Smithson of Political Betting puts it, Labour “has attracted very little new support from any group other than those who voted Lib Dem four years ago.” Labour needs these disaffected Lib Dems badly: “Managing this is the most vital task for Labour if they want to return to power.”

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I watched it. I loved it! I shared it!! And at last someone has had the courage to mention the bleeding PRIVILEGED FEW. and that is telling the truth Mr Hodge.

It just shows what an immature bunch of tossers our self serving politicians are,if nobody voted would they notice,I doubt it !!

Agree with Mr. Hodges that it is highly unlikely that Labour will win the general election or even if they win will not get the necessary majority. Labour are spending too much time criticising the Tories instead of winning back the public vote they have lost. What's past is past, leave it to the Joe Public to remember, we have long memories. Labour should be working on DETAILING how they are going to give the people a better standard of living and still look after the economy. Labour need to start listening to the people and promise a referendum and let the debates begin for and against an in/out of the EU. I am not sure which way I would vote because so far we are only hearing why we should opt out. A vague "bad for trade and jobs" from Ed Miliband does not convince me we should stay in, I want details. I do not believe that all the big companies will leave Britain if we opted out, just think of the expense of moving lock stock and barrel, for many like the big car manufacturers it would cost £millions and then have to recruit and train a whole new workforce. With mass immigration we are suffering it is a long time since these companies have had it so good with such a cheap workforce. I think the main parties have too many fingers in the EU pie to want to opt out, nothing to do with losing trade and jobs, more like looking after their own pockets, of course I am guessing but on past experience of how trustworthy are our politicians from all parties maybe my guess is not too far out.

Where are the policies? The Labour Party is led by student politicians currently. They are not connecting with the electorate and they failed to capitalise on the governments unpopularity in the low point of the economic cycle by putting forward a coherent and inspiring political vision. They have singularly failed to grasp the lessons of 1983, 1987 and 1992. I voted Labour 1992-2007 and libdem because I thought Brown was wholly unsuitable to remain PM, but at least he had gravitas and was a political thinker. This current lot is an embarrassment. They face annihilation next year.

Dan Hodges needs help. His hatred of Ed Miliband goes well beyond intra-party conflict and it can hardly be explained by the defeat of David M in the leadership election. Hodges blogs in the Telegraph where he knows that any attack on Labour, however extreme, will be warmly received. Hodges' blogs are emotional, with only a very thin façade of reasoned analysis. I think therapy might be his only way out of this petulant syndrome.