“Despite having been a Cabinet minister, Miliband gives too many voters the impression that he is a rookie debater, not a potential national leader.” © Tim Goode/PA Wire/Press Association Images
He is strong. He understands voters’ problems. He knows how the economy ticks, and how to make it tick faster. He would fight for Britain’s interests and stand firm in a crisis. He keeps his promises. He is the ideal candidate for Prime Minister.
Sadly for Ed Miliband, few voters think he fits the bill. Almost four years into his leadership of the Labour Party, and with just 10 months to go until next year’s election, Miliband has yet to persuade the electorate that he has the personal qualities needed to lead Britain. As a result, Labour is only narrowly ahead of the Conservatives, instead of enjoying the double-digit lead that oppositions generally need at this stage in the political cycle if they are to return to power.
It’s not just what the polls have been showing. Recent elections tell the same story of Labour’s electoral vulnerability: they led the Tories by just 1 to 2 per cent in the local and European elections, despite the Tories shedding votes to Ukip that are likely to return home next May; and they saw a fall in their vote in Newark—the kind of by-election where Labour performed much more strongly when Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock were opposition leaders.
What has gone wrong? YouGov’s regular tracker questions show how Miliband’s attempts to win voters over have failed. Fresh research for Prospect helps to explain his failure—and suggest what he must do to revive his fortunes.
Back in September 2010, a few days after Miliband defeated his brother in the battle to lead Labour, YouGov asked people which of the three main party leaders would make the best Prime Minister. David Cameron, on 40 per cent, was well ahead of Miliband on 25 per cent and Clegg on 8 per cent. At that stage, Miliband was not well known to the wider public. His hope was that voters would warm to him as they got to know him.
It hasn’t happened. Cameron’s figure remained at 38 per cent, plus or minus three points, until after the “omnishambles” budget in 2010. It then slipped, and has generally been in the low-to-mid 30s since. But Miliband…