Leading article: Mr Miliband's two big issues: the economy and himself

Share

Yesterday marked a bitter-sweet anniversary for Ed Miliband. It was the date of his election, by the narrowest of margins, as leader of the Labour Party; but it was a victory also marred by accusations of fratricide. That these accusations are still heard is a measure of the task Mr Miliband continues to face one year on. At this week's conference in Liverpool, both it and its leader still have a mountain to climb.

Polls give Labour at most a single-digit lead over the Conservatives, despite an economy growing more slowly than projected, unemployment and inflation rising faster, and a programme of austerity and spending cuts that would doom even the most popular government. A credible Opposition should be much further ahead. The trouble is voters' scepticism about Labour's economic competence. It remains dogged by the 2008 crisis.

A separate difficulty relates specifically to Mr Miliband. Fewer than half of all Labour voters say that Mr Miliband is turning out to be a good leader, and more than a third say they do not know what he stands for. This is not a good result for a leader who has been in place for a year. True, for much of that time the eurozone and the Arab Spring have dominated the news to the point where anyone not in power has found it hard to make a mark. But the Labour leader has to catch voters' attention in good time if his party is to have a chance at the next election.

In this respect, Mr Miliband's proposal to reduce the ceiling for university tuition fees to £6,000 a year is on the right lines. It is eye-catching. It targets a particular constituency (students and their families) and capitalises on disillusionment with a particular party (the Liberal Democrats), and Mr Miliband has ensured that it looks economically responsible, by saying where he will find the money. It is possible to question the concept – universities, already complaining about ever-changing rules, might be less than overjoyed – but the politics and the economics look sound.

In the three-and-a-half years that remain until the next election, however, Mr Miliband is going to need a lot more policies where that came from. This can be but one point in a new party manifesto. Labour will stand or fall on the much, much bigger issue of economic competence.

This is partly why there has been such a clamour for Mr Miliband to apologise for what are now seen as the errors of his predecessor. But he is right to be wary; the economy is not Iraq or even bank regulation. Admitting such a macro-mistake would play into the Government's hands. It would also risk sounding hollow, while Ed Balls, Gordon Brown's erstwhile chief lieutenant, remained shadow Chancellor.

But the clinching argument is that waiting is to Mr Miliband's advantage. A time will come, if the UK economy does not improve, when voters start to blame this government for financial mismanagement, rather than the last. Once the Coalition starts citing global factors, rather than the policies of the last Labour government, Mr Miliband's point will have been made for him. With no prospect of that happening this week, he must exploit his days in the limelight to stand up, be heard – and convince Labour voters once and for all that they really did choose the right Miliband.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all