It’s not been a great summer for Ed Miliband. The last ignominy was being egged in Wandsworth last week, but the latest is far more concerning for the Labour leader: more people than not think he should step down as head of the party than not.
44% of people polled in an ITV/ComRes survey believe that Labour would be better off at the 2015 election without him, while 16% think they would do better for sticking with him.
The ITV/ComRes poll isn’t the only to forecast a negative outlook for Ed. An ICM/Daily Mirror survey also released today is only slightlier rosy in its findings.
42% are dissatisfied with his performance, compared to 21% who are happy with his three-year tenure as leader of the opposition. Worse, a third of those who voted Labour in the last election think that he ought not to lead the party into the next election (46% say he should).
For someone often unfairly compared to a plasticine model, Miliband has a perception problem of being seen as too soft. Last week’s egging wasn’t the Labour leader’s first incident. Compare his reaction (above) to that of former Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott:
Clearly, no-one’s suggesting that Miliband go out and start punching people. But in order to convince people you’re strong enough to be Prime Minister, you need to appear strong in the first place.
Miliband doesn’t have that, at least according to the ComRes/ITV poll of 2,034 adults. More people believed he was not a strong leader than thought he was - and 43% of those polled didn’t have an opinion either way.
That high proportion of don’t knows is what’s killing Miliband’s chances of winning the 2015 election. Many believe that Labour is being too reactive, rather than proactive, in its policies. Indeed, 72% of those asked by ComRes said that Miliband ought to better outline his party’s policies in advance of the election. Only 6% felt satisfied they knew what the party stood for, and would vote for them in two years time.
Nonetheless, Labour still stands forecast to win the next election (by a majority of 84, according to UK Polling Report), and is still ahead in opinion polls (the current average is Labour 38%, Conservative 31%, and Lib Dem 11%).
The above graph, produced by UK Polling Report, which collates all opinion polls into a general voting intention chart, demonstrates that this year Labour has been on a downward trend, while in the past few months the Conservatives have regained ground. The worry is that trend continues, and what has since 2011 looked a likely win for Labour in 2015 becomes a loss.
Miliband does still have time to turn around the downward trend. Campaigning will begin in earnest soon – and he needs find some policies (and quick), to toughen up, and give voters the ability to conceive of him in Number 10. He needs to shore up supporters, and quell dissenters within the party (including pugnacious John Prescott), who have been calling for his head. If he doesn’t, it seems unlikely he’ll be kept around to contest a second election in 2020.