Ed Miliband’s Soft Poll Lead

Ed Miliband conference
Labour’s eight-point poll lead will have been greeted with a huge degree of scepticism from supporters long traumatised by endless defeats in the 1980 and 1990s.

The pattern never varied. False dawns gave way to drubbings as the party saw supposedly healthy advances evaporate as election day loomed. And these days Labour seems unable to pull off the mid-term council seat gains and by-election coups opposition parties normally draw comfort from.

The Guardian/ICM poll puts Labour on 38 percent – but how much of that will be lost once a largely hostile media turns its blowtorch on the man who dared to stand up to the press barons over phone hacking?

Deep down the suspicion remains that Ed Miliband is another Neil Kinnock – a leader who stalwarts admire but with little appeal to floating voters.

After shocking everybody by usurping his more charismatic brother David in the Labour leadership race, Ed sat on his hands for two years as George Osborne framed Labour as the party that maxed-out the nation’s credit card.

Labour supporters cried out in vain for a robust defence of the record.

But Ed’s Trappist silence meant Gideon was never asked to explain why the Tories had pledged to match Labour’s spending plans – right up until the moment the wheels fell off.

Nor was he held to account on why the Conservatives had continually egged on Labour to go even further with its light-touch financial regulation.

And was it really plausible that Gordon Brown – a man characterised as a clapped-out Mr Bean figure by opponents – was simultaneously so powerful he could collapse the entire world economy by spending a bit extra on hospitals in Honiton and schools in Scunthorpe?

Labour was never likely to win the economic argument given the deep trauma caused by the banking meltdown.

But what was needed was a scrappy score-draw which threw up enough doubt in voters’ minds so that the party could still get a fair hearing five years down the line.

Miliband’s insistence during the leadership election of apologising for the Iraq war seemed somewhat perverse given that there had been two elections held since that 2003 invasion and the next election will be held well over a decade after Saddam fell.

Yet Miliband knows Labour shed more than two million voters since Blair’s 2001 landslide while the Lib Dems have piled on almost the same figure as they briefly sought to outflank Labour on the left.

But after aiding and abetting Tory cut after Tory cut the Lib Dems can hardly expect to harvest the protest vote – certainly not with Nick Clegg in charge.

And just as Miliband sets about rebuilding Labour’s core vote PM David Cameron seems intent on alienating his – despite UKIP’s emergence as a natural home to shire Tories infuriated by what they deem as metropolitan obsessions such as gay marriage.

Meanwhile Miliband has focused on concrete, easy-to-understand proposals such as freezing energy, water and train price hikes while prompting bosses to pay the living wage.

It’s a populist approach which chimes with the party’s core values but is still unlikely to earn him a thumping majority given that voter resentment to politicians remains so rampant.

But Ed perhaps senses the days of any party enjoying the support of more than 40 percent of the electorate are over.

So he could yet stagger first over the finishing line come 2015. Just as long was we don’t hear any more about that blasted credit card.