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Sunday newspapers attack "Milibland", the well-meaning waffler

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-11-28 at 08.05.27 I can't show it all but click here (£) for Peter Brookes' full Saturday cartoon. The drawing alone is worth a subscription to The Times. More than any words it captures what The Sunday Times (£) calls the "Milibland" phenomenon.

The People (the only national newspaper to back his Labour leadership bid) has declared this morning that his well-meaning waffle doesn't cut it. It was certainly a very silly gaffe for Mr Miliband to make when, on Monday, he talked about starting his policy review with a blank piece of paper.

It may be that Red Ed hasn't stuck as a label but it probably did succeed in frightening the new Labour leader. Since the unions elected him as Gordon Brown's replacement and his brother walked away from the Labour frontbench he has retreated into obscurity. The only notable narrative to emerge has been splits on 50p and the graduate tax with his most senior appointment, Alan Johnson.

The Labour leader didn't help himself on Friday when John Humphrys pressed him on the meaning of his only soundbite so far; the "squeezed middle". By the end of the interview it appeared that Mr Milibland meant everyone. Nick Robinson concluded that this was all a "squeezed muddle".

Also in that interview the Labour leader half-heartedly identified with the student protestors but weakly explained that he'd been too busy to go and meet the protestors. In his Sunday Telegraph column Matthew d'Ancona says the Labour leader will damage his prime ministerial credentials if he does become a student ally:

"On Today, he foolishly aligned himself with the student protesters, distancing himself from the violence but insisting that "a lot of the anger is quite justified". At such moments, he sounds about as far from a future prime minister as it is possible to be: the student swot unsure of whether or not he wants to join the barricades. Anger may be enough to make you shaft your brother, Ed. But it will never get you into Number 10." 

In the News of the World (£) Fraser Nelson urges Ed Miliband to go on the attack:

"Attack the Government where it is weakest: On the cuts, prisons and on the soon-to-explode NHS reform agenda. What really worries the Tories - from the backbenches up to the Cabinet - is Andrew Lansley's massive NHS upheaval. The Lib Dems think that Lansley has a plan. The Tories know he doesn't. It's ripe for some vicious, sustained, Ed Balls-style scrutiny."

The worst advice Mr Miliband could follow would be to do nothing. It's easy to look at the current opinion polls and be very encouraged at Labour prospects. The Coalition's latest approval rating is at minus 14%. It will get a lot worse and Labour will be well ahead in the polls during the mid-term period. But all of that advantage will disappear quickly if the economy is motoring by the time of the next election and David Cameron is seen to have fixed some big problems.

Miliband cannot afford to coast. Others around him want his job and Ladbrokes yesterday reported "a rush of money from punters predicting an early exit for Miliband."