i Whitehall Editor's Letter: Mr Miliband still has an awful lot left to do before next May


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The Independent Online


Which are of the following to statements do you agree with?

I trust David Cameron to protect the NHS (and/or) I trust Ed Miliband to protect the NHS.

Those were the options we put to more than 1,000 people in our regular ComRes poll - and the results surprised us.

Conventional wisdom would have it that Labour and Mr Miliband should have a clear lead on ‘trust’ in running the NHS. But fascinatingly that no longer seems to be the case.

In fact only four per cent more people trusted Mr Miliband over Mr Cameron – while a clear majority didn’t think either leader would protect an institution widely caricatured as Britain’s national religion.

For the Conservatives such a low trust figures are uncomfortable although by no means unsurprising. But for Labour - with less than a year to go before a General Election - they are fairly disastrous.

Mr Miliband’s strategists have long planned to make protecting the NHS a key campaign theme. After a botched Tory re-organisation and with intense funding pressures on hospitals and GPs they have long assumed that the NHS was an easy policy ‘win’ for the party. This poll proves that assumption is incorrect.

Combined with Labour’s low trust ratings on the economy and general leadership it shows just how much work Mr Miliband still has to do before next May even, as we find today, he is still narrowly ahead in the polls.

To be a fair to Labour it has yet to announce what it would do differently on the NHS. The difficulty is when and if to announce Labour’s strategy – do it too soon and it gives the Tories time to match it or attack it, do it too late and you run the risk of it not filtering through to voters by polling day.

Our poll will give succour to those who say Labour must act boldly and quickly.