Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Mystery of Mr Edward Miliband

Why isn't Ed Miliband (above) more popular? His polling numbers are absolutely dire, even among Labour voters. Though not quite at Iain Duncan Smith levels of laughable unpopularity, he's running William Hague and Neil Kinnock close - at their worst troughs, not their best peaks. Despite the risk of a double-dip recession in the UK, the Labour Party is (at best) only neck-and-neck with a Conservative Party that expected to be bitterly unpopular by now.

In 1980-81, hobbled by political infighting, an out-of-date new leader and a looming split, Labour led by leagues in the polls. At the moment just leading would be an achievement.

And all this despite having what appear to be quite acute antennae and rather good political judgement.

Remember the conference speech that called for a more moral capitalism? Right-wing newspapers hated it. Now the Prime Minister talks the same language. Remember the attacks on 'profiteering' train companies? Now the Transport Secretary threatens to veto Network Rail bonuses. Remember everyone running for cover when Ed called for Rebecca Brooks of News International to be sacked and the BSkyB takeover to be postponed? Just a few days later, the Government was singing from his hymn sheet. Now he's calling for the NHS 'reforms' to be halted, in order to pay for the 6,000 nurses he says a more expensive and a more 'competitive' service will have to give up in order to pay for the absurd complexity of a National Health Service that will cease to exist in all but name. Polls suggest that the public back him in overwhelming numbers.

So he usually calls it right - politically at least, and leaving aside the question of whether he actually is right or not. Why isn't he popular? Can it really be the nasal vocal presentation and the come-from-nowhere youth of the man? Focus group evidence has always suggested so. But perhaps his party's recent - shall we say - more complex (read: hard to understand) policies on the deficit have also contributed.

Reader, I have to confess that I don't know. If you do, tell me.

It could be important. Remember: Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher were light years behind Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in terms of their own personal popularity. They became Prime Minister. The mystery of Ed could run and run.

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