In May this year Hynd’s Blog reported on the start of the ‘great Miliband makeover’. The crux of that report was the news that Obama’s election guru David Axelrod had been paid a very large sum of money to get rid of his ‘image problem’.
I’ve been holding my breath for just over 2 months now but at last here it is – the promised Miliband makeover.
This makeover comes in the form of what Mark Ferguson refers to as the ‘hanging lantern’ makeover. In short, the idea is to shine a light on to your supposed weakness and turn it into a strength. The classic example of this approach is Ronald Reagan (old) being turned to his advantage (‘experience’).
As I wrote before, Miliband’s image problem was around being seen as weird, awkward and frankly not leadership material. And so, with David Axelrod’s guiding hand, Miliband today looked to turn those perceived weaknesses into strengths.
This is what he had to say:
This is the key section with my comments in italics:
“I am not from central casting. You can find people who are more square-jawed, more chiselled, look less like Wallace [reference to the fact he looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit – a cartoon, a joke, accident prone etc]. You could probably even find people who look better eating a bacon sandwich [reference to the viral bacon sandwich photo that spread like wildfire on the logic ‘if he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, can he really run a country’?]. If you want the politician from central casting, it’s just not me, it’s the other guy [‘the other guy’ – clever, puts the idea out there that he is not one of these identikit politicians’]. If you want a politician who thinks that a good photo is the most important thing, then don’t vote for me.
“But I believe that people would quite like somebody to stand up and say there is more to politics than the photo op. If politics is going to respond to the distrust people have, it has to begin to respond to talking about you.
“The current Prime Minister might take a good picture [referencing the hug a huskie turn ‘get rid of all that green crap’ perception of Cameron only being interested in image]. but he can’t build a country that works for you. It is not what interests him. And it is not who he stands up for.
Essentially this was Milband (or Axelrod – you can interchange as you see fit) trying to re-define what it means to be a ‘good leader’.
Of course, there is the possibility that all the media will focus on is Miliband repeating their lines – that he can’t eat a bacon sandwich, but this is a bold (you might even say American) attempt to rebrand himself.
Only time will tell if the Miliband makeover has worked or not. But through shameless electoral engineering need we appear to have a political leader saying there is more to politics than shameless electioneering need…I think that’s a good thing.