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LABOUR dead rose

Ed Miliband has had a lot of bad days lately, but today takes the biscuit. While the opposition ought to be limbering up for PMQs on a Wednesday, this morning Labour found themselves battling criticism and problems on three fronts:

1) Voters

Twin YouGov polls for The Times and BuzzFeed brought bad news on the electoral front.

Only 19 per cent of voters think Miliband looks like a Prime Minister in waiting, against 63 per cent who think he doesn’t – a score of -44 points. By contrast, in September 2008 49 per cent of the electorate thought Cameron looked Prime Ministerial against 34 per cent who did not, a score of +15.

Those in the Labour Party who think the organisation might win votes even if Ed doesn’t are in for a shock, too. Twice as many people think Labour is not ready for power (52 per cent) as think the party is ready (26 per cent). Again, in September 2008 the Conservatives had a positive credibility score, with 43 per cent thinking them ready against 36 per cent who thought they were not.

The Buzzfeed poll added insult to injury, finding that Miliband is viewed as the weirdest of the three main party leaders (41 per cent of people thought he was weird, compared to 34 per cent for Clegg and 27 per cent for Cameron).

2) Donors

Electoral problems are combined with serious questions about the state of Labour’s finances. John Mills, one of the party’s biggest non-union donors, told the Telegraph that he doubts Miliband will actually carry out his radical policies because they are more anti-business than people would like. He also questioned the party’s scrappy economic policy, saying:

“I think he is very boxed in to be honest. With the economic policy strategy we have got at the moment there really isn’t very much room for the Labour Party to be very different from the Conservatives.”

All of which links to The Sun‘s coverage of Labour’s difficulties in funding its election campaign. Overall, Miliband has raised £13 million –  £4.5 million less than even Gordon Brown was able to raise.

A lack of cash in the bank translates to problems and dissatisfaction on the ground. Apparently only 42 of the 106 seats Labour designated as targets have received any donations at all – and even if they won all 42, it would leave them short of a majority. At the same time, sitting MPs are getting worried that there are “gaps in our defensive battles” and demanding more money to plug them. It isn’t traditionally an omen of victory to be worrying about losing the seats you already hold.

3) Colleagues

While ambitious Labour MPs have so far resisted the temptation to follow Gove, Osborne and Boris into publicly fighting over the succession, the last few days have seen the first public, on the record criticisms of Miliband. John Mann turned the class war rhetoric onto the “Hampstead academic” at the weekend, and now David Lammy has openly analysed Miliband’s failings:

“We’re 14 months out of an election. We have to spell out to the country what our positive offer is for them to vote for us.

“That has to connect, it has to be relevant, it has to inspire and motivate. I think we’ve been a very effective opposition, but in the next 14 months we have to cross that Rubicon to being a government-in-waiting…[Miliband] set out a bold agenda on living standards and energy prices and I think we heard that again at the despatch box. We have, though, got to own the economy. The big question is: do you trust Labour to run the economy, to fix your living standard problem?”

Given the polling, it’s hard to argue with that – Miliband may have caught people’s attention with the energy freeze pledge, but he has made no progress in convincing people he could run the country.

With the economy strengthening the Conservative pitch each month, the electorate apparently immune to Miliband’s character, a shortage of campaign funds and now open criticism from Labour MPs, what could he do to reverse his falling poll lead?

 

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