Mr Miliband deserves a break

He understands people's problems and has a good grasp of policy detail

Share
Related Topics

The voters that Ed Miliband needs to persuade are sympathetic to the Labour Party but feel that it lacks "the vision thing". We have an exclusive report today of focus-group research in swing seats - seats that Labour needs to win from the Conservatives in 18 months' time - that once again suggests that the voters are confused about what Labour is for. One group was asked, "What is Labour's vision for Britain?" There were "10 full seconds of silence".

When reading public opinion, it is hard for the Labour leader to catch a break. A ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday last month found that more than half of all voters could not imagine him as prime minister. If the leader's role is to present a clear idea of what a party stands for, Mr Miliband has so far not been a success. One of the consistent findings of polls is that the Labour Party is more favourably regarded than its leader - and that the opposite applies to the Conservative Party.

Hence one of the common assumptions about Labour's current lead in the opinion polls, which is that, as polling day approaches, the choice for the British people will increasingly become a personal one between Mr Miliband and David Cameron - to the advantage of the latter. It is certainly true that the Labour "brand" is more popular than the Conservative one - even if the Tories are seen as better at "managing the economy", people think Labour would be better at "keeping the cost of living down" - while Mr Miliband trails Mr Cameron on leadership qualities and as "best prime minister".

However, it is worth asking if it is the case that the more the voters get to see of Mr Miliband in the election campaign, the less likely they are to vote Labour. He has, after all, been leader of the opposition for three years, and the predictions made by supporters of his brother that he would be a failure have yet to be fulfilled. The complaints about him over the summer this year were turned round by his party conference speech. Most people who watched it with an open mind say that he exceeded the admittedly low expectations of the moment. More than that, his plan for a gas and electricity price freeze while restructuring the energy market has led the political debate for more than two months now.

When he appeared on BBC1's Watchdog with Anne Robinson to discuss his plan, he came across well as someone who not only understood how hard it was for some people to cope with rising energy bills but who had a policy that would keep downward pressure on retail energy prices.

When he was on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs last weekend, he came across as a reasonable and good-natured person despite his cheesy musical tastes. When an aide says "If only he could meet every voter personally …" it usually means "Yes, he's useless on TV". But when Arnie Graf, the US community organiser who is advising Mr Miliband, said of their first meeting on a train, "If I didn't know anything about him, and just met him then and there, I'd vote for him," this points to a strength that could come through on the small screen.

The presidential nature of the modern British TV election may not be as much to Mr Cameron's advantage as people think. The Prime Minister is seen as a posh, out-of-touch and increasingly heartless Tory, having abandoned much of the compassionate, eco-friendly, sunny optimism of yesteryear. Mr Miliband, on the other hand, once he has overcome initial scepticism, can impress as someone who understands people's problems, and who has a geekish grasp of policy detail.

As we approach the season of giving, let us give Mr Miliband a break.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bob Geldof  

Ebola is a political AND a medical disease

Paul Vallely
 

I've tried reason, but my cat is pig-ignorant

Dom Joly
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin