No wonder Ed Miliband looked nervous ahead of Prime Minister's Questions. A great deal of nonsense has been spoken and written about his leadership in recent weeks, with complaints in Labour circles that the new leader has yet to make a real mark. David Cameron played on their misgivings yesterday; Mr Miliband, he declared, was "the nowhere man of British politics".
Mr Cameron, of course, had a debating point to make. Labour MPs should know better than to undermine their man by writing off his prospects so soon. Since his election as party leader on 25 September, he has made no serious gaffes, turned in mostly solid, if unexceptional, performances at the Dispatch Box, and spent two weeks on paternity leave. His front-bench appointments could have backfired, but that has not happened yet.
The muttering, in fact, reveals more about the mutterers than about Mr Miliband. Some of it comes from those in the party who clearly still find it hard to reconcile themselves to Mr Miliband's victory. He won as an insurgent, defeated an older brother, and narrowly won thanks to trade union backing. Here is much for some of his MPs not to like. Others seem disappointed that he has not made more of an impression on voters. But eight weeks after a victory that seemed to surprise even him, it is unreasonable to expect more.
As things stand, Labour is not just ahead in the polls, but regularly polling above 40 per cent. Mr Miliband's critics need to snap out of their sulk and consider whether they are not harming rather than helping the Labour cause. They should recognise that the next election is more than four years away; that their contributions to Mr Miliband's policy review would be welcomed, and that most political leaders, judged by their first two months, would appear failures. Political leaders are rarely born, more often made, and Mr Miliband can justly claim to have had leadership thrust upon him.
In time, Mr Miliband must produce a clear and cogent critique of the Coalition, and an alternative programme for government. That project, rather than pointless carping, should be his colleagues' chief preoccupation now.