Ed Miliband: How much trouble is he in?

 
Ed Miliband

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As one of his MPs resorts to colourful language to describe his leadership style and others fret about Labour's ability to set the agenda, exactly how much trouble is Ed Miliband in?

Ed Miliband is a "ruthless bastard," writes a Labour MP.

As if the rough patch Labour has had in the last few weeks wasn't enough, you might be thinking, now this.

But, the author of these words, the former frontbencher Tom Harris, meant his remark as a compliment.

"The kind of steel" within Ed Miliband, Mr Harris writes in the Daily Telegraph and his "courage," is vital for Labour's success.

This glowing reference for the Labour leader comes from an MP with no need to indulge in a spot of brown nosing.

Tom Harris recently stood down as a shadow minister because he was struggling to juggle his job with his family commitments.

But his testimonial to Mr Miliband's apparent ruthless streak comes after a week of public grumbles from Labour MPs suggesting the party had lost its voice, reduced to a summer stupor while hyperactive coalition ministers, from the prime minister down, dominated the airwaves.

'Shout louder'

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham told the Guardian Labour must "put its cards on the table" and produce attention-grabbing policies by next spring or risk losing the 2015 election.

Start Quote

What voters need to hear is some real clarity about what Labour stands for”

End Quote Deborah Mattinson Polling expert

The party, Mr Burnham said, must "shout louder and speak in a way that captures how people are feeling and thinking."

Labour backbencher George Mudie weighed in, telling BBC Radio 4's The World At One that the party was "slightly hesitant and confused" and not "setting the agenda".

And, to boot, former whip Graham Stringer said: "The real worry is the almost deafening silence there has been from the shadow cabinet in a time of the year which is traditionally a ripe time for the opposition to attack the government."

Unfortunately for Labour, when a shadow minister broke that silence and did make headlines, he did so for all the wrong reasons.

Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant was forced to backtrack and climb down after the bungled briefing of a speech.

Internal grumbling

So how worried should Ed Miliband be? And how much of this is down to the fact it is August, known by journalists as the silly season?

Westminster in August is a curious place. As a reporter, it can seem like every other phone call you make triggers that tell-tale sign that the person on the other end is on the beach, and even less inclined to talk to you than they might normally be: The foreign dial tone.

The lack of much news means those stories that are about can be given the megaphone treatment and get much more attention than they would at any other time of the year.

But, with many people on holiday, there may be fewer people about to listen to that megaphone.

Labour will hope most people have barely noticed this internal grumbling. And most probably haven't.

Two things, though, are striking.

'Bigger problem'

Firstly, in a binary political system, with a government and an opposition, if one side is seen to be up, almost by definition the other side appears to be down.

Secondly, the coalition in general, and the Conservatives in particular, have sharpened up their political messages, on, amongst other things, welfare and immigration.

Labour's lead in some opinion polls appears to have narrowed.

And what appears to be the beginnings of good news on the economy is good news for the coalition too, and so tricky for Labour.

For Deborah Mattinson, a former senior aide to Gordon Brown, who now runs her own polling company Britain Thinks, what is happening is indicative of a bigger challenge for Labour.

"I think in a way it's symptomatic of a bigger problem which is an apparent lack of an overarching strategy," she told Radio 4's The World Tonight.

"What voters need to hear is some real clarity about what Labour stands for, what Labour believes, how Labour now would be different from how Labour has been before. And that needs to be set out with absolute clarity in a language that people understand."

In short, a spot of internal bickering in the dog days of August is probably something Ed Miliband can bat away, and no one is suggesting his leadership is in any danger.

But a lingering impression in the long term that his vision is fuzzy and people aren't sure what he, and Labour, stands for, would be far, far trickier and much more significant politically, with a general election now less than two years away.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 517.

    511. Brother_of_The_Rosy_Cross

    "I fulfilled my obligation to provide job search evidence in order to claim the money that is rightfully mine"

    Not if I had anything to do with it - 12 applications in one day, say 1/2 hour each, 6 hrs almost £10 ph - no research, tailoring CV, covering letter etc.

    Imagine interview. The job is rightfully mine! I get up for dinner but I want £10 ph as a right

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 516.

    514. Brother_of_The_Rosy_Cross

    It would take my wife and i 3 years to earn that yet we own our own home, both work, have 2 kids and dont claim child care or any other benefit other than working tax credit...there aint a politician alive that can offer us anything!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 515.

    Labour under Miliband are .....No spine, no backbone no purpose.Hey an believe it or not, I hate the tories!,
    Lab have lost touch with people as much as the tories. Victims of greed, they to succumb to the desire for riches.
    There is no longer a 'party for the people'.
    Mankind is greedy and he sucks!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 514.

    508.
    Tanglewood

    To people such as myself £79,500 p.a. is an unimaginable fortune. My bank balance at the moment is 49p.

  • Comment number 513.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 512.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.

    Every Labour government in my lifetime has ended up decimating the economy, as result I will never vote for them again.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 511.

    509.
    TrueHammerofPompey

    I fulfilled my legal obligation to provide job search evidence in order to claim the money that is rightfully mine, and had applied for 12 jobs, and 42 jobs last week, what more do you want, blood?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 510.

    Ed who?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 509.

    505. Brother_of_The_Rosy_Cross

    "I did my job hunting for this week and signed-on yesterday" so job hunting on Monday, take the tax payers cash Tue, give up on finding work or starting your own business to contribute to society on Wed, to moan about people who pay for you benefit. You make the case better than the Daily Mail.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 508.

    #507: "The Rich are those ... on 3 times the national average wage."

    Glad you make your intentions so clear, i.e., that you wish for a government that will punitively tax every successful professional, entrepreneur, business owner, etc. Why not just admit that you can't cope with anyone being successful? 3 x national average wage is £79,500 p.a. - hardly most people's understanding of "rich".

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 507.

    504.
    Tanglewood

    The Rich are those who earn or hoard excessive amounts of wealth, so anyone who has vastly more than the majority. All Millionaires would fall into this category, as would anyone on 3 times the national average wage. Billionaires should be stripped of their wealth and imprisoned. Any Rich that attempt to flee the country should have all their assets seized. That ok?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 506.

    I am a committed Labour supporter and desperately wish to see he end of this wretched coalition govt - but Milliband comes across as a lightweight. In a leader I want to see gravitas and intellectual and political clout. Sadly lacking, I'm afraid. Cannot help but feel that had his brother been elected the election would havebeen a formality.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 505.

    498.
    gOLLUM

    I did my job hunting for this week and signed-on yesterday with all the relevant required jobsearch evidence, thanks for asking, am just sat waiting for the dole now so I can squander it all on bills. I am tapping in to my neighbour's internet (with permission) via a 50 ft ethernet cable (no wireless here).

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 504.

    #64 Brother_of_The_Rosy_Cross: "Tax the rich"

    Please quantify who these "rich" people are who will be paying for your socialist nirvana? What annual income is required to enter this state - 50k? 100k? 250k? One million? Or, is it simply "anyone who earns more than I do"?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 503.

    The Labour party died with John Smith unfortunately.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 502.

    The simple fact is that every Labour government bankrupts the country in the end, partly through unaffordable 'incentives' to their supporters to stay loyal. Compared to that any detailed policies fade into insignificance. Of course their voters take a short term view and have short memories so there's still a risk they'll get another chance to repeat it, especially if UKIP split the right vote.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 501.

    At the moment the Labour party has a comfortable majority. I see no reason to give the tory press any material with which to attack the party with. Anything Miliband does will be distorted into an attack on him. Far wiser to stay mum, and let the tories self destruct, something they seem to be doing anyway.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 500.

    #492: "Tory Voters would still be Tory voters by virtue of their hatred of the Working Class"

    Since its only the embittered veterans of Old Labour who rabbit on about the "working class" I doubt that this is true. Even if it is, it cannot match socialists' denigration that is heaped on anyone who dares to be successful.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 499.

    Miliband needs to do more than "make more noise". He needs a narrative that challenges the neoliberal "devil take the hindmost" economic orthodoxy that has demonised the poor and driven working people into zero-hour contracts while siphoning an ever greater proportion of our wealth to the richest 1%. We need better than "we will shaft you a little bit less than the Tories". We needs new ideas.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 498.

    490.Brother_of_The_Rosy_Cross

    Still round your neighbour's house using his internet then? Won't he want to be getting to bed - and maybe you too if you're to be up with the lark. Good luck with the job hunting (if any hunting is going on that is)

 

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