As Lib Dems lose council seats, Labour struggles to find winning soundbite

If Ed Miliband really is keen to show the common touch, yesterday’s response to the Lib Dems’ electoral drubbing is unlikely to have helped.

Surrounded by TV cameras and enthusiastic supporters, Ed said the Lib Dems had been sent a mesage ‘about the policies they are pursuing for which they don’t have a mandate’.

To hammer home the point, the Labour leader listed a number of Lib Dem policies – the NHS, tuition fees, ‘living standards’, the cuts…

‘FOR WHICH THEY DON’T HAVE A MANDATE’.

This dreary and slightly nerdy soundbite was employed five times in quick succession. It was Ed’s main contribution to last night’s Newsnight (see seven minutes in).

While the Sikh gentleman behind him seemed to enjoy it, is this really the type of language that will resonate with the Ed’s beloved ‘squeezed middle’?

The Labour leader has been warned about using the wrong words before. Earlier this year the Indy’s Johann Hari penned a superb piece saying he needed to ‘speak in much simpler and plainer language and assume much less pre-existing political knowledge on behalf of his audience’.

Yesterday’s performance shows that this remains the case.

Ed Miliband is an appealing character who undoubtedly has what it takes to see off David Cameron. But he needs to change his tune first.

MAY 8 UPDATE: Labour is now employing this attack line with gusto.

John Denham used it yesterday, and Andy Burnham has just given it a fresh airing on Sky News. The Spectator’s Pete Hoskin tweets:

‘Burnham broadcasting Labour’s favourite new attack: that the government “doesn’t have a mandate”. It’s not exactly poster-ready, is it?’

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