Ed Miliband returns to work today after his paternity break. His party is level-pegging in the polls but he hasn't enjoyed any honeymoon since becoming leader. If anything his party is doing slightly worse than before he became leader… despite George Osborne's announcement of spending cuts… despite an average disapproval rating for the Coalition of 10%… and despite unhappiness about Europe and crime from the Tory base.
Pasted below are the key vulnerabilities of his leadership, as identified by key commentators.
- Chancellor/ leader disagreements are fatal and Martin Ivens in The Sunday Times (£) notes how Alan Johnson continues to publicly disagree with Ed Miliband on current issues like tuition fees and the 50p tax band: "While others moan that they can’t get a hearing, the shadow chancellor… backed a change to Labour’s voting system and lobbied for tuition fees against the graduate tax favoured by his leader. To cap that, Johnson last week made it admirably clear that the 50p income tax band introduced by the last Labour government must only be a temporary measure to get Britain through “difficult economic times”."
Alan Johnson Versus Ed Miliband over union power…
- "Alan Johnson leads calls… for reform of the Labour Party, declaring that the system that elected Ed Miliband as party leader was wrong and should be changed to weaken the grip of trade unions. The Shadow Chancellor’s comments to The Times reflect deep unease among party modernisers over a result in which David Miliband lost, even though he won more support from Labour members and MPs, because his younger brother was backed strongly by trade union votes." – Times (£)
- Dan Hodges in the New Statesman quoting a "Senior Brownite" talks about tensions between Ed Balls and the Labour leader: "Ed Miliband's team are terrified of Ed Balls and Yvette. They think they're going to come and try and kill him. And the reason they think that is because they will."
A vacuum where leadership should be…
- Dan Hodges in the New Statesman quoting a shadow minister looks at the lack of direction from the top of the party: "There's a sense of a vacuum developing. People are looking for leadership and direction. And at the moment, they're not getting it."
- The TImes (£) leader-writers: "Rebuilding after the Brown years requires imagination and courage. Labour is divided and directionless. Since the election it has drifted, and the election of Ed Miliband has not halted the drift. He has somehow succeeded to the office of leader of the party while leaving it vacant at the same time. Mr Miliband is bound to show greater courtesy to his colleagues and more self-discipline than his predecessor. But it is less obvious that he will avoid other vices of Mr Brown. He will need to be able to make decisions rapidly that signal Labour’s direction and he will need to ensure that he leads a modern, reforming free-enterprise party rather than one with an excessively romantic view of its democratic socialist past. Some early signs are discouraging — confusion on tuition fees, opportunism on cuts. And Mr Miliband does not have long to prove himself."
- James Forsyth at Coffee House: Ed Miliband needs to make some noise.
- In The Observer Andrew Rawnsley quotes "One member of the shadow cabinet wryly [referring] to himself as a spokesman for "the third most interesting party in Britain"." Rawnsley continues: "he needs to start making his presence felt or run the risk that he instead becomes stamped with other labels which can be just as corrosive, labels like "Vague Ed" or "Unready Eddie"."
Blairites join David Miliband in rejecting their leader's call to serve…
- Mark Seddon in the Mail on Sunday: "Unapologetic former Blairite Ministers Hazel Blears, Pat McFadden and Ben Bradshaw had refused to serve in Mr Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet."
- Harriet Harman took a very firm line with Phil Woolas but backbench MPs raged at her in a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party and have been donating to his judicial appeal.
Rebellious Left-wing supporters…
- Mehdi Hasan: Where is the radical candidate who came from behind to win the crown?
- Jim Pickard of the FT on why Ed Miliband is upsetting his Left-wing base: "Miliband’s caution reminds me of Tuesday last week when Labour’s new leader didn’t attend the TUC rally (which he had promised to go on), with aides saying it wasn’t a rally. You can understand his determination to shed the Red Ed tag and try to position Labour as close to the centre ground as possible. But those who heard him during scores of summer hustings may now be confused about what he does stand for."
An Anti-Business/ Anti-Donor attitude that will harm party fundraising…
- "Ed Miliband has been warned he is taking a multimillion-pound gamble with Labour’s finances after blocking peerages for three donors who have helped to keep the party afloat… Labour, which is up to £12 million in debt and had to fight the general election on a shoestring budget, is already finding it harder to prise open the wallets of some longstanding benefactors. Lord Sainsbury of Turville, who has given the party more than £12 million over the past five years, is known to have been upset by David Miliband’s defeat in the leadership contest. Lakshmi Mittal, the steel tycoon who has donated £5 million since 2005, is also said to be concerned about Labour’s attitude to business." – Times (£)
- Without the support of businesses Ed Miliband will be increasingly dependent upon trade unions like Len McCluskey, elected yesterday as the ultra-left leader of Unite.
A declining press operation…
- James Forsyth in The Spectator: "Certainly Ed Miliband has not played the media as well as Cameron did in the months after his election as Tory leader. Tory strategists couldn’t believe that Ed Miliband released the photos of him and his partner and their new baby on the same Wednesday afternoon that students were violently besieging Millbank. However cute the photos, they were never going to knock the rioters off the front pages. Back in the day, the Labour spin machine would have known this. The photos would have been released on Thursday."
- The Mail on Sunday on Mandelson V Ed Miliband (Part 94): "Peter Mandelson has added to the growing pressure on Ed Miliband, claiming the Labour leader had insulted him by saying he should be ‘packed off to an old folk’s home’. In a new war of words between the two men, Lord Mandelson suggested Mr Miliband was devious and had secretly plotted against Tony Blair. And he contemptuously dismissed him, saying he had ‘never seriously thought of him’ as a leader."
- Asked about Peter Mandelson, Ed Balls told Andrew Marr: "The papers are full of the twitching of old corpses of the past.” Strewth!