Ed Miliband should fire some of his press advisers to avoid any more embarrassing gaffes, according to former Labour Deputy Chairman Tom Watson MP. Mr Watson said the staffers should go unless they can can cut out “schoolboy” errors that have dogged the Labour leader.
During the election campaign Mr Miliband was left red faced after he appeared on a radio station in Swindon but did not know the name of the leader of the Labour group on the local council. He later went on to appear at a photo call with bacon sandwich that he appeared unable to eat.
Just last week he was photographed with a copy of The Sun despite a long running boycott of the paper in the Labour heartland of Liverpool. The photo caused outrage in the City, which has never forgiven the paper for its inaccurate coverage of the 1989 Hilsborough tragedy, were 96 Liverpool fans were killed.
Tom Watson accepted that the ultimate blame for mistakes lay with Miliband himself but that the Shadow Cabinet were becoming concerned about the quality of advice he was receiving. He told BBC Radio 5Live: “It was a schoolboy error from someone who doesn’t understand the Labour Party. You don’t win elections if you can’t build that alliance.
“The people around Ed, they are not civil servants. They are very powerful political people – they carry a lot of power in the Labour party. A lot of Labour members raise funds to pay their very good salaries.”
He went on to say that the press advisers should either “lift their game or move on and get people who can do the job.”
The problems in Miliband’s office are thought to relate to the fact that many of the most talented Labour staffers do not want to associate themselves with his leadership. Which is considered too left-wing for the Blairites who successfully ran the party for two decades.
They are thought to be waiting until Miliband loses the 2015 general election to David Cameron – something that is looking increasingly likely – so they can then return to work with a new leader. Many of them favour the shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.
Whilst Watson is a backbencher he is well liked and respected in the Parliamentary Labour Party and his criticism is likely to carry weight in Labour circles. He resigned as Deputy Chairman in 2013 in the light of the controversy over the selection of the Labour candidate for Falkirk.