Latest posts by Alex Mitchell (see all)
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It’s just six months until the general election and Labour leader Ed Miliband, once again, is fighting off questions about his leadership – with a rumoured 20 shadow ministers ready to call on him to resign.
Senior figures in the Labour Party came to his defence as an Ipsos MORI poll found that just 13% of people polled thought Ed is ready to be Prime Minister. 13% makes Ed the least liked party leader ever. Not since Michael Foot 40 years ago have the figures been this bad, and it reflects in the poll of parties.
Labour and the Conservatives both hover around the 30% mark, neither party seeing the gap wide enough to be comfortable. Yet this election is seen by some as Labour’s to lose. People are fed up with austerity, public sector pay freezes, and benefit cuts set out by the ‘nasty’ Tory Party and allowed thanks to the Lib Dems – but they can’t find it within themselves to vote for Ed.
In January of this year, Labour were looking at a 6% lead in the polls. Then in May, one year until the General election, this lead was down to 3%, with a couple of polls showing the Tories leading for the first time since March 2012. However the latest poll has the Tories on 32%, Labour on 29%, UKIP on 14%, the Lib Dems on 9% and the Greens on 7%. Now it’s easy to dismiss these numbers. Though UKIP have 14% due to Britain having a first past the post system, it doesn’t mean UKIP could expect to get 14% of seats in Parliament and polls vary, showing that it is too close to call.
As someone who is craving a change of government, I find myself supporting those calling for Ed to go. I feel Labour under Ed lacks ambition, drive and vision. There is no convincing evidence of fire in Ed’s belly. This is his election to lose, yet he consistently underperforms with front benchers setting the bar low. For example, Chuka Umunna on local elections said: ‘a good night for us would be 150 seats’.
David Dimbleby put him straight: ‘Our experts say you need 500 to have a good night.’
Labour can’t think this tactic is likely to work for them, surely? Ed supporters keep saying he has the vision for Britain. What vision? What policies? Talk to a non-politico and they struggle to know who Ed is, let alone name any of his policies. Ed even forgot to discuss the economy in his keynote speech at the party conference shirking it off as an ‘occupational hazard’.
The policies that come out are ‘non-policies’ designed to grab headlines. For example, he claims the minimum wage will be £8 by 2020, which will arguably happen through market forces anyway – especially with the news that wages are now rising above inflation after the longest squeeze on wages.
This news puts pressure on his ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ campaign.
As the BBC’s Nick Robinson put it to Ed, ‘What have you got left?’
The Tories win the wage argument by planning on increasing the level before income tax to £12,500. On NHS policy, Labour oppose a top-down reorganisation. Well yes, and…. ? It’s happened.
Now they join on the anti-immigrant wagon. Why join in the right’s scapegoating of foreigners and ‘scroungers’? EU immigrants contributed £20 billion in tax revenues. That’s “20 billion after deducting the amount they received in state help through schools, healthcare, etc. It wasn’t immigrants that caused the financial crisis of 2008. It’s not immigrants that are stopping us from having a wage that allows us to live and not just exist. Labour needs to realign the debate and direct people’s frustration at those who caused the collapse. The banks that we had to bail out whilst food banks multiplied, for example. This is what Ed should be fighting for and these are the people that Labour should be fighting on behalf of.
Maybe I’m missing something. I talk to fellow Labour supporters who argue Ed has the right message and we shouldn’t criticise him for bad PR, after all people will be voting on policies not personalities. However the message is only as strong as the messenger. The election, like it or not, will be fought on personality as well as policy – and at the moment there is a severe lack of both personality and policy. That gap is being filled by other parties, including UKIP. The media is able to shape Ed’s personality because he isn’t doing a good enough job of it. The jokes are what the majority of people will see. We are about to enter into an election, the date of which has been known from nearly day one of the current government’s term.
If Ed were an effective opposition leader, he would be challenging the agenda and setting the battlegrounds for the election. Yet we see the agenda is being set by a party that until recently had no MPs. That makes me question Ed’s effectiveness as a leader.
You could argue that the only poll that matters is the election, but time and time again the British public go to the polls and they aren’t voting for Labour. There is a UKIP surge, which until recently was perceived as only affecting the Tory vote – now it is taking votes from all sides. It’s threat that Labour need to address.
People are starting to question whether they picked the wrong brother. We have to acknowledge that his brother David won the people’s vote in the leadership election, but the unions tipped the vote to Ed. As the New Year draws nearer and nearer, we will get to the point of no return, whereby it would be unwise to change leadership. Some may argue we have already gone past that point.
I feel Labour need to listen to the public. If after four years people don’t know who you are or what you stand for, I ask you: Is this the man to lead the fight in the election?
I think not.