By Tim Montgomerie
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Conservatives have had some fun at Ed Miliband's expense this week. Today's Sun revelled in Ed Miliband's "Blackbusters" gaffe. "Silly Mili", it laughed. Guido Fawkes relaunched Iain Martin's Don't Underestimate Ed Miliband Association as the Don't Unseat Ed Miliband Association. "Save Ed Miliband" is the three word prayer of every Number 10 strategist. Tories are probably right to think that "Odd Ed" is a very weak candidate for 10 Downing Street but if it's hard to regard the Labour leader as a potent threat we shouldn't think the same of the Labour Party as a whole.
It may have been a difficult week for the Labour leader but this was one of the more interesting weeks for the Labour Party as a whole. There were real signs that the reality-based wing of the party was finally asserting itself...
- First up was Liam Byrne with his argument that Labour needed to return to a welfare state that William Beveridge would actually recognise. Iain Duncan Smith's shadow argued against the spiralling housing benefit budget, the way the system maintained people in long-term unemployment and, third, insufficient encouragement of thrift. As George Eaton blogged there wasn't much substance in Byrne's article but it was a movement towards the ground occupied by the majority of the British people.
- Second was Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy's identification of £5 billion of defence cuts. Mr Murphy rejected populism on spending and said that by spelling out the cuts his party would move towards credibility. Despite the claims of a Tory press release Mr Murphy did spell out cuts very clearly.
- Third - and least reported - was the Shadow Education Secretary's argument for a longer school day. The Coalition has already advocated this itself but Stephen Twigg's focus on how it could prepare more disadvantaged children for the world of the work was in tune with his party's best working class roots.