By Jonathan Isaby
Well that didn't take long. A mere 68 days after he was elected Labour leader, Ed Miliband is the subject of a piece in the Telegraph exposing "growing concerns" about whether he is cut out for the job.
The paper's political editor, Andrew Porter – who is well plugged in to Labour's Shadow Cabinet and their circles – writes up the Opposition leader's "humiliation" at yesterday's PMQs which was watched by his "grim-faced" Shadow Cabinet colleagues.
The exchanges has led to increased concern among Labour MPs that the man elected to replace Gordon Brown in September is struggling to make an impact. It comes days after the Labour leader launched a policy review to try and give his leadership new direction.
One Labour MP said: “It was far from good. It is difficult to know what sort of strategy he has.” Another Labour front bencher claimed Mr Miliband’s performance was “a car crash”. Others are claiming Mr Miliband’s shadow cabinet colleagues are not pulling their weight in Opposition because they are still “mourning” David Miliband's failure to land the leadership.
And therein lies a big part of the problem: whereas I referred to Miliband's election as leader, we all know he only got the job by virtue of union votes, with Labour MPs and members having actually voted for his big brother.
And if Miliband's aides were thinking of trying to shield him from the negative press coverage today, they wouldn't be leaving their man with much to read at all.The sketchwriters have had a field day.
Simon Carr in the Independent brands him "poor old Eddie the Eagle", in reference to the hapless ski-jumper. Quentin Letts in the Mail compared his performance yesterday to Strauss's duck in Brisbane last week. Ann Treneman in the Times (£) reckoned Ed Milibad seemed to be "travelling on the world’s longest down escalator". Even the Guardian's Simon Hoggart records the "grumbling and dispirited" reactions of Labour MP's after David Cameron's "Back of the net" performance.
Of course, performance in the chamber isn't everything – if it were, William Hague would have become Prime Minister in 2001 by a landslide. But Miiband's failure to perform in set pieces like PMQs will be damaging morale on the Labour benches.
And it's not as if he is blessed with a strong united, coherent team behind him. Confusion reigns inside the Shadow Cabinet as to whether to defend the Brown legacy or distance themselves from it; senior figures have put out completely contradictory messages over issues such as the 50p tax rate; and they are facing every which way on other matters such as the AV Referendum.
Right now Labour needs a serious dose of leadership and Miliband is failing to deliver it. The echoes of "I told you so" are starting to reverberate…