Miliband's Labour - the man must match the party

Something is going on here, and it can be resolved only by Mr Miliband himself. People want to vote Labour

Share

Ed Miliband travels to Washington tomorrow to speak to Barack Obama. Be in no doubt: this is an important moment for the Labour leader. He leads a party that is more popular than he is. Our ComRes opinion poll today confirms that more people still intend to vote Labour than Conservative next year, and that more people think that their "personal finances would improve" under Mr Miliband than if David Cameron were returned for a second term.

But the poll also finds that only 21 per cent agree that Mr Miliband is "likely to be prime minister" next year and that 44 per cent disagree. In America, such poll questions, designed to discover the "wisdom of crowds", have proved to be better predictors of election outcomes than traditional polls simply asking people how they intend to vote.

Something is going on here, and it can be resolved only by Mr Miliband himself. People want to vote for his party, and they like many of its policies. On the "quality of public services, such as education and the NHS", for example, Labour has a nine-point advantage. More broadly, people prefer Labour values and regard the Conservative Party's motives with suspicion. Indeed, our poll confirms that Mr Cameron's problem is the mirror image of Mr Miliband's: his party is a drag on his popularity. On most subjects – except, intriguingly, "I would pay more tax" – Mr Cameron does better compared with Mr Miliband than the Conservatives do compared with Labour.

Unless Mr Miliband can recover some of his leadership deficit, however, the presidential nature of post-war British politics is going to count against him. One of the difficulties that people have in imagining him as prime minister is that he has appeared so little on the world stage and has said so little of note about world events.

His main contribution of note has been to defeat the Government, apparently by mistake, in the Syria vote last August. Since then, he has tried to take the credit for having stopped the "rush to war", while at the time he argued in favour of the principle of a punitive strike against the Assad regime to try to deter the use of chemical weapons. If he can explain his position to President Obama, who was presumably irritated with Mr Miliband for forcing him to concede a veto to Congress over Syrian strikes, he would prove his mettle.

As Jane Merrick argues today, opposition leaders need to give a voice to people's concerns about world crises. It is harder for leaders out of government to gain people's attention, as they are not actors and do not speak with the authority of chairing Cobra meetings or issuing instructions. That means that Mr Miliband has to try harder to speak up for people's anxieties at a time when developments in Ukraine and the Middle East are menacing.

The Labour leader made a reasonable fist of it in his speech yesterday. His remarks about the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine were platitudinous, but on Gaza he supported "Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks", and added: "But I cannot explain, justify or defend the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians." This was conspicuously more even-handed than Downing Street's account of the Prime Minister's conversation with President Obama on Friday night, which failed to mention Palestinian casualties.

Tomorrow is Mr Miliband's chance, then, to speak clearly on the international stage. He does not have to say something different from Mr Cameron for the sake of it, but if he could use this opportunity to speak well for a nation and an international community looking for clarity and leadership, more of his fellow citizens might come to see him as a more plausible prime minister.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory