Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Ed Miliband, the unhappy Prime Minister


Let's look ahead into the future, shall we? Enough of all that rambling around the past for today. Let's fast forward to 2016, by which time Ed Miliband might - just might - sit in No. 10 Downing Street. Regular readers will know that we think that's a big 'might', and that it's really too early too tell. One thing's for sure: he's going to have a heck of a task securing an overall majority big enough to last for a whole five-year Parliament.

But suppose he is there, having made so many good strategic calls for so long (think: News International), and he either governs as a minority government, or in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. What's the political scene likely to look like then?

Well, the historical precedents aren't all that encouraging. 'Public Policy and the Past' has continually compared Labour's leader to a much-maligned politician from yesteryear: Edward Heath, who defied terrible poll ratings, and the widespread perception that he was a 'born loser', to become Prime Minister in a shock election victory in 1970. He was another leader who no-one could imagine in No. 10, but who somehow held on doggedly until, against all the odds, he beat his more telegenic and more 'natural' opponent into submission.

But just look what happened to Heath. Continual states of emergency. Crisis after crisis. An eventual snap election - and defeat, after just three and a half years in the job.

No-one can say what will meet Mr Miliband if he does walk up Downing Street after an election victory in May 2015. The economy will almost certainly be recovering - though there will be a lot of pain emanating from interest rates either rising, or being about to rise. He will have been tempted to announce a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union - which, if he loses, will almost certainly doom his premiership to unhappy defeat. His flagship energy price 'freeze' might have turned out to have been a good way of forcing prices up just before it started, promising further hikes at its end.

But here's one thing we can say - that possibility, of an unhappy and unpopular Miliband premiership, is all the more likely given the source of his apparently rather strong and resilient polling lead. Almost all of it comes from disaffected left-leaning Lib Dems who've abandoned their former allegiance, disgusted at 'their' party's alliance with the Conservatives. Where will they go if the Liberal Democrats elect a more left-wing leader after the next election - Tim Farron, perhaps, or Vince Cable? That's right - straight back from whence they came.

Leaving the new Labour Prime Minister way behind in the polls. So 'One Nation' Labourites might end up barricaded in No 10, perhaps, pulling out of Europe (against the wishes of the people of Scotland and Wales), and in a deep, deep electoral hole.

In politics, as in much else, the conclusion is: be careful what you wish for.

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