— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) February 11, 2015
Why he’s becoming like tennis player Lleyton Hewitt at his prime
It’s easy to look at British politics as though it were boxing. Journalists will often speak of whether there were any ‘knock out blows’ in Prime Minister’s. Instead I look at the it through the prism of sport I love, which PB old hands know is tennis. Of course there are some key points in a set but overall it’s a rhythmic battle in which small margins can give a player a big advantage if sustained long enough.
Every player has a weakness and the more you bring that out over the course of a match the more likely you are to win. Right now Ed Miliband looks like he has a new coach and has identified a form of play that has linked his opponent’s weaknesses into his strength. Ed Miliband is beginning to play like Lleyton Hewitt approaching his prime.
Fourteen years ago Hewitt was the best counter-puncher around. He didn’t have a big serve, or big forehand or backhand. Despite this for several years he took the booming ground-shots and serves of opponents and steered them back with interest.
Hewitt would look like he shouldn’t have any chance but developed a knack of dissembling his supposedly superior opponents’ game and ensure the ball landed at the most awkward point. As with Ed, it took a while for the tennis commentators to understand how the Aussie could and did win.
This last two weeks has seen a different Ed Miliband on court and there’s every sign he’s got an effective gameplan at his disposal at the time that matters most. Like Hewitt, Miliband has turned huge crunching groundshots against him into winning returns his opponent isn’t used to seeing fly back past the net.
The response to the orchestrated attack through Boots boss Stefano Pessina and other big businesses close to the Tory party is the most significant political event of the election campaign.
Over two weeks Ed Miliband and Labour have turned an assault on his business credibility into a issues of tax fairness which voters can identify with.
He’s drawn on the HSBC revelations and steered it onto the arrangements of Conservative donors. As a result it is now David Cameron and his party that is now stretching and is badly off balance.
After PMQs David Cameron was overheard complaining of Miliband’s “horrid” line of attack. In a revealing remark he said that it was only because Ed Miliband was losing. But that’s the point, if you aren’t winning in tennis you change your game.
The Ed Miliband I see right now is different to the leader at the time of the Murdoch crisis. He’s scrapping, harrying and resilient and he shows signs of having read and sussed his opponent’s plays. In the next few months the attacks will keep on raining down on him, but the signs are this is precisely what he needs to capture public support.
Like Hewitt, Ed cannot easily generate huge shots on his own. We’ve seen several listless years in opposition broken only by a challenge to energy companies. Ed needs his opponents to inject the pace for him to get his winning returns. If he can continue to do this under his new coaching team then he will likely become Prime Minister in May. How his counter-punching style will work in Downing Street against a different leader Tory remains to be seen. But for now, Ed has more earned himself a trademark Hewitt scream of ‘C’mon!’