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What are Ed Miliband’s chances as PM? Better than the polls


9:25 am - September 18th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Sunday Telegraph today has a report by Lord Ashcroft, in which focus groups tell him David Cameron has a 20% lead over Ed Miliband on who would make a better Prime Minister.

As I pointed out earlier, asking slightly different questions of voters with different emphasis gives youvery different results.

And there are several ways such a poll is a bad barometer of how future elections might turn out.

You may remember that earlier this week the Times splashed a similar poll on its front page.

In response, this is what David Lipsey – a political journalist and former Deputy Editor of The Times – wrote on the Straight Statistics blog.

At least on page 14, the paper gives the question – which must rank among the worst drafted of any asked by any opinion polling company. It records how many adults agree and how many disagree with the proposition: “I find it difficult to imagine Ed Miliband running the country as prime minister.”

There are at least four reasons why someone might agree with this proposition:
One is that they don’t think he is fit to do it – the interpretation of TheTimes headline.
The second is that, whether he is fit or not to do it, they don’t think he and his party is likely to win the election, the interpretation of the first para of the story.
The third is that they genuinely find it difficult to imagine – that they simply cannot imagine what in four years time his running the country might be like.
The fourth, admittedly rather less likely, is that they cannot imagine Ed Miliband or anyone else running the country because it is becoming, or may by then have become, less runnable.

Not surprisingly, if you add up all those agreeing with the proposition for one of those four reasons, you get a high number. This tells us nothing about what people think of Mr Miliband’s electability or his ability to govern.

The same caveats apply to Lord Ashcroft’s poll. And, in addition:

1. It is far too early for people to imagine what Ed Miliband might be like in four years time – while they see Cameron acting as PM almost every day. It’s not too difficult to see why the odds are stacked against the Labour leader.

2. They’re not paying much attention to policies, so won’t know much about what Labour stand for. Both parties in government are hogging all the attention.

3. Cameron’s ratings have kept sliding over the past 18 months, and they will depend on where the economy will be in 4 years time. I don’t suspect it will be in a happy place.

That said, the polling isn’t exactly rosy for Ed Miliband. I’ve said before that he needs throw some caution to the wind and think of some attention-grabbing interventions.

It isn’t his style but we are in a very odd political environment: despite their low polls the Libdems are positioning themselves as the official voice of opposition, and the media is more interested in that fight than what Labour is saying. I really doubt David Miliband would have fared better.

Ed Miliband urgently needs to think of something radical to communicate his key ideas across to the electorate. The current state of affairs isn’t as bad as the media is painting but it’s not ideal.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. Northern Worker

I used to vote Labour when it represent people like me. Now I don’t bother voting at all except for an independent in our council elections. All three parties – Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats – are much the same. They don’t represent us anymore. They’re in it for themselves, their pals in business and their pals in Brussels. Ed Milliband is a prime example. While he is leader Labour is unelectable. The same goes for his brother. Labour needs someone who has leadership qualities. It needs someone who represents us.

Miliband is far too afraid of becoming “unelectable” by opposing the government’s rightwing policies. Articles warning him not to frequently appear in the Guardian, Indie etc, articles which bear the clear taint of blairite pro market thinking. Now the rumour is that he will reshuffle his shadow cabinet, bringing back “big beasts”. No prizes for guessing which blairite acolytes will return to trumpet the necessity of “centrist”, neoliberal policies if power is to be regained. That leaves us with three parties against the people and for the markets and only the Greens as an alternative.

Attention grabbing interventions may help to raise his profile, but electoral success needs more. We have too many reminders of New Labour’s failings, including high-profile shadow ministers who whole-heartedly participated in them. They are so egregious that time alone will not remove them from voters’ memories.

I accept that generally governments lose elections rather than oppositions winning them. Add to this the high probability that the Lib Dems will be a much smaller factor in the electoral arithmetic for a generation and Labour should do better. However the proposed boundary changes will probably count against them. Swings and roundabouts? One thing seems certain, unless something of real substance emerges from Labour’s policy review they seem unlikely to win the next general election.

4. Luis Lorente-Becerra

I couln’t agree more with Sunny. Neither of the M’s… have got what it takes to lead the Labour Party. The party needs to change to a radical modern socialist democratic organization.

5. douglas clark

Northern Worker @ 1,

I think you suffer from a democratic deficit. I am Scottish and I can vote SNP which usually means that I can subscribe to the viewpoints that lots of your compatriots who write here claim they believe in. But they have no-one to vote for. The system is corrupt and well, jiggered.

I read lots of English people seeing no-one to represent them, no distinction between one party and another. It is really sad.

Frankly, if the Labour Party took over tommorrow, I doubt they’d do much different. It is too soon to forget who got us into this mess and is it is not too early to realise that voting for Cameron had no credibility either?

You are left without a choice, except the extremes, and you rightly reject that. But the mainstream appears to be without any sort of moral compass whatsoever.

I really don’t know who I’d vote for if I lived in England. Probably no-one in the mainstream, that’s for sure. Green?

@douglas clark

‘I think you suffer from a democratic deficit. I am Scottish and I can vote SNP which usually means that I can subscribe to the viewpoints that lots of your compatriots who write here claim they believe in. But they have no-one to vote for. The system is corrupt and well, jiggered.’

didn’t know the SNP was anti EU, that’s news to me.

@1 – I’ve voted for, at different times, labour, libdem and independents in local elections. This is based on very different factors to national elections.

Where I don’t have anyone to vote for, no.

Ed Miliband urgently needs to think of something radical to communicate his key ideas across to the electorate. The current state of affairs isn’t as bad as the media is painting but it’s not ideal.

Perhaps it would be nice if had some ideas to communicate.

@2.Briar

Miliband is far too afraid of becoming “unelectable” by opposing the government’s rightwing policies. Articles warning him not to frequently appear in the Guardian, Indie etc, articles which bear the clear taint of blairite pro market thinking. Now the rumour is that he will reshuffle his shadow cabinet, bringing back “big beasts”. No prizes for guessing which blairite acolytes will return to trumpet the necessity of “centrist”, neoliberal policies if power is to be regained. That leaves us with three parties against the people and for the markets and only the Greens as an alternative.

I think this is a problem. As I’ve written elsewhere, I actually think the Ed Milliband could potentially be a good leader. I get the feeling that his heart is roughly in the right place. But he is as yet very inexperienced, and he can’t yet seem to find any guts to face down the multitudes of ‘blairites’ and neoliberals in his party, and ignore their siren voices in the media. Which he despately needs to do.

The last thing Labour needs to do now is return to being a neo-liberal lite party.

Ideally, Labour needs to come to terms with the fact that the New Labour project was ideologically misguided and utterly unnecessary for electoral success (John Smith or a successor in the same vein would have won comfortably in 1997 against a divided, demoralised and economically discredited Tory Party which everyone was sick of).

Too many of our comrades fell for the idea that the death of Communism meant the death of socialism and social democracy and that the temporary economic boom in the developed world (nothing compared to the boom of the post-war golden years) meant we had no choice but to buy into the New Right consensus and become, at best, a social liberal party.

1. It is far too early for people to imagine what Ed Miliband might be like in four years time – while they see Cameron acting as PM almost every day. It’s not too difficult to see why the odds are stacked against the Labour leader.

Which is why the useful comparison is between Ed Miliband now, and David Cameron in about 2006 (or Tony Blair in 95). And the news isn’t entirely rosy on that front.

http://www7.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2011/09/15/leader-ratings-how-ed-miliband-compares/

Looking at those Leaders of the Opposition ratings, Miliband’s closer to tracking Howard and IDS than anyone else, which can’t be terribly encouraging.

So is it going to be Andy Burnham or Yvette cooper as leader after the election

12. blackwillow1

A little less union bashing would certainly help Ed Miliband assert his position as leader. Wether you loved or loathed Blair, as his opponent, you were wise to fear his wrath, the same goes for Brown. Ed obviously lacks a certain animalistic edge, Blair being the sly fox, ready to pounce when your back was turned. Brown, the grizzly bear, smashing your head against the wall if you got in his way. Ed Miliband, bit of a chipmunk, breaking cover to give the occasionall nip, but mostly s itting in a tree, nibbling his nuts and waiting for a brainwave to magically spring up. Going head-to-head with the unions is like grabbing the tiger by the tail, instead of showing some balls and standing shoulder to shoulder with the people who gave him the job in the first place. By lining up against them, he is opposing not just the union leaders, but much worse, the union members. Clegg betrayed his core support, Cameron betrayed everyone he made promises to. Ed Miliband may well be remembered as the leader who betrayed his country, wasting the opportunity to defend his people under attack, preferring to court the support of the middle class academics and the power-crazed money men he seems to spend quite a lot time with. Get a grip Eddy-boy, you need to choose a side. If you’re a socialist who cares about those who cannot defend themselves, start acting like one. If you’re actually a new version of Blair, walk away now and let a genuine socialist take the wheel.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  12. Alex Braithwaite

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  14. Lanie Ingram

    What are Ed Miliband’s chances as PM? Better than the polls say http://t.co/LtkuspeH I rebut Lord Ashcroft today

  15. Elizabeth A

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  16. andrew

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  17. sunny hundal

    What are Ed Miliband’s chances as PM? Better than polling says http://t.co/LtkuspeH I rebut Lord Ashcroft

  18. Adam White

    RT @sunny_hundal What are Ed Miliband’s chances as PM? Better than polling says http://t.co/WX1TAA5T I rebut Lord Ashcroft

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  20. James Brinning

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  23. Jill Hayward

    What are Ed Miliband’s chances as PM? Better than polling says http://t.co/LtkuspeH I rebut Lord Ashcroft

  24. Elizabeth A

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  25. Elizabeth A

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  26. sunny hundal

    @markfergusonuk The Times poll was rubbish for various reasons, as I pointed out here http://t.co/LtkuspeH

  27. Maureen Czarnecki

    @markfergusonuk The Times poll was rubbish for various reasons, as I pointed out here http://t.co/LtkuspeH





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