Voters don’t think he is tough enough, clear enough or competent enough to lead Britainby Peter Kellner / August 21, 2013 / Leave a comment
If Ed Miliband fails to become Prime Minister, it won’t be because voters think he is too left wing, or insincere, or lacks courage. It will be because of something bigger, more fundamental—and harder to put right. The people he needs to win over simply don’t think he’s up to the job.
YouGov’s latest poll for Prospect underlines the scale of the challenge that Labour’s leader faces. Millions of voters think the party chose the wrong brother three years ago. Even with David now away from the scene, Ed scarcely wins a vote of confidence from current Labour supporters. True, he leads the field when they are asked which of today’s top Labour MPs would make the best leader. But he scores only 30 per cent. As many as 45 per cent of Labour voters choose someone else, while 25 per cent shrug their shoulders and respond “don’t know.”
When we test a variety of statements about Ed Miliband, a clear pattern emerges. Three negative statements command the widest support—that people don’t know what he stands for, that he’s not up the job of running Britain and that he’s in denial about the need to take tough decisions about taxes and spending.
Now, with more than six in 10 voters supporting the Conservatives, Lib Dems, UKIP or one of the smaller parties, it’s not surprising that so many people think like this. What should worry Miliband is that these views are shared by high numbers of people in two key groups: those who are currently pro-Labour but have not finally decided how to vote next time (13 per cent of all likely voters), and non-Labour people who say they might consider backing the party in 2015 (10 per cent). If Miliband can hold on to the first group and win over some of the second, Labour could win outright; without them, defeat beckons.
In contrast, Miliband wins relatively high marks for standing up to Rupert Murdoch over phone hacking, and for dispelling the early “Red Ed” criticism. And on these points there are only modest differences between firm-Labour, soft-Labour and maybe-Labour voters. It’s not these things, or his sincerity, that make the difference. It’s that the voters that matter don’t think he is tough enough, clear enough or competent enough.