Shadow play: Who's that Labour frontbencher?

The public is struggling to recognise the Opposition's big beasts

One in four people thinks Ed Miliband is his elder brother David. A similar proportion of voters believe that David is actually Ed. Nine months into his leadership of the Labour Party, the findings of the ComRes survey for
The Independent do not paint a flattering picture for Ed Miliband, as he steps up his efforts to convince the people that he is a prime minister-in-waiting.

Click HERE to view Labour test graphic (118 kb)

Other members of his Shadow Cabinet are even more anonymous. The only good news is for Ed Balls, the combative shadow chancellor who stood against the Milibands for the Labour leadership last year, and who appears to have made more of an impact on the electorate than the two brothers. He was correctly identified by 68 per cent of the 2,000 voters who were shown photographs of eight senior Labour figures and asked to put one of five names to their face. Ed Miliband was named accurately by 64 per cent of those questioned but 23 per cent thought he was his brother David. David was identified by 61 per cent but 26 per cent thought he was his brother.

The other five Shadow Cabinet figures tested by ComRes were recognised by only three or four in 10 voters, suggesting that the Opposition team is struggling to be noticed and many Shadow Cabinet members remain in the shadows.

The poll was taken after Ed Miliband announced his intention to scrap the elections to the Shadow Cabinet among Labour MPs held every two years. If approved, his shake-up will allow him to appoint whoever he wants to his top team rather than be made to work with those MPs who have lobbied for support among the party's backbenchers.

His allies hope that the change will sharpen the Shadow Cabinet's performance by allowing him to include Labour's "new generation" so frontbenchers can spend their time attacking the government rather than currying favour with Labour backbenchers in the hope of winning votes in the open popularity contest.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, may be seen as a possible leader in Labour circles but the public does not yet view her in the same light. Unlike her husband Mr Balls, only one in three (33 per cent) voters polled could identify her from her photograph.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, regarded by Labour colleagues as one of the party's best performers since last year's election, appears to be even less well-known. Only 30 per cent recognised him. Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, fared a little better, being recognised by four in 10 (40 per cent) of those questioned.

The poll was less encouraging for the shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy. More people (30 per cent) named him as Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, than himself (25 per cent) and 19 per cent thought he was John Healey, Labour's health spokesman.

Meg Hillier, the shadow energy and climate change secretary, suffered a similar fate: 30 per cent thought she was Caroline Flint, the party's local government spokeswoman, and only 19 per cent identified her accurately. The same proportion thought she was Angela Eagle, a Labour Treasury spokeswoman, 17 per cent thought she was Ms Cooper and 15 per cent Tessa Jowell, the party's spokeswoman on Cabinet Office matters.

Surprisingly, Conservative supporters seem more aware of Labour frontbenchers than Labour's own supporters. Of the eight Labour faces shown to voters by ComRes, only Mr Khan was better known among Labour than Tory voters.

Ed Miliband was named accurately by 64 per cent of Tory voters and 63 per cent of Labour supporters; the figures for his brother were 70 per cent and 66 per cent respectively. Mr Balls was recognised by 78 per cent of Tory voters and 70 per cent of Labour backers.

Labour MPs will vote on Ed Miliband's plans to scrap the Shadow Cabinet elections next Tuesday. Some MPs have accused him of returning to the control freakery associated with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but the move is likely to be approve. It would then need the go-ahead by Labour's national executive committee and its annual conference in September.

The change would allow Ed Miliband to recall his brother to the Shadow Cabinet if David decided to return to frontline politics before the next general election. But allies say David believes he made the right decision by returning to the backbenches after his narrow defeat by his younger brother last September. If the ComRes findings are right, a return to the Shadow Cabinet by David might only add to the confusion in the voters' minds about which Miliband is running the party.

ComRes interviewed 2,059 GB adults online between 24-26 June. Data were weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate