David Maddox: Rocky or Rocky Horror Show for Labour

HOLLYWOOD tough man Sylvester Stallone is not someone you would normally compare to Labour leader Ed Miliband, but there is something about the star’s most famous character, Rocky Balboa, which seems to have inspired Mr Miliband.

How will Ed Miliband's narrative conclude? Picture: Michael Gillen
How will Ed Miliband's narrative conclude? Picture: Michael Gillen
How will Ed Miliband's narrative conclude? Picture: Michael Gillen

The original Rocky film was, of course, about a no-hoper picked surprisingly over other much stronger contenders to take a pot shot at the world title. Most of the film is about how everything appears to be stacking up against him overcoming what were already impossible odds.

But then famously he mentally and physically prepares himself by punching large chunks of frozen meat and running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art before going the distance in the fight.

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Something similar seems to have happened to Mr Miliband, who has looked beaten and forlorn over the last few weeks of parliament and been generally duffed up at Prime Minister’s Questions by David Cameron.

But last Thursday, for the leaders’ interviews with Jeremy Paxman, a new, fresh, hard-hitting Miliband came out fighting against the probing blows of the veteran broadcaster.

More importantly, he looked like he was much more up for a fight than Mr Cameron, who fell flat on the night. Miliband’s “Hell yes I’m tough enough” retort may be the catchphrase of the election.

The secret to the turnaround appears to have been weeks of preparing for a TV debate with sparring sessions with Tony Blair’s old spin doctor, all-round general tough guy and black belt in karate, Alastair Campbell.

Like hitting lumps of meat and running up museum steps, the preparation appears to have done the trick. The “election” Mr Miliband is more focused, sharper in his answers and more confident looking than the “weak leader” who dithered for weeks over how to counteract accusations of a deal with the SNP.

But things can change quickly. The gaffe over using businesses in a Labour advert without their say-so shows that the potential is there for Labour’s Rocky to turn into Labour’s Rocky Horror Show, which could be the subtitle for the seven leaders debate on Thursday night after he has had some left hooks from Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid leader Leanne Wood and Green leader Natalie Bennett and a couple of right jabs from Nigel Farage. But if Miliband’s Rocky metaphor proves accurate it is worth remembering that in the original film there was no winner with the Italian Stallion and the defending champion Apollo Creed punching each other out to a tie. The image of the UK’s two big parties both floored on 8 May is one which seems increasingly likely.