Mr Miliband’s troubles

It comes to something when a leader of the Opposition reads in papers usually friendly to his cause that senior figures in his party do not want him to stay on after he has lost the General Election. It is particularly strange to see this when most polls still put Labour ahead for 2015 and some show Labour winning an overall majority. So why is this happening?

In part it is the arithmetic of the polls. To be sure of winning an opposition party needs to be well ahead at this stage, as the run up to a General Election, particularly with an improving economy, may see a swing to the governing party. In part it is Mr Miliband’s defensive and unambitious strategy. Most of what he is trying to do is geared to reassuring core voters rather than winning new support.

Mr Miliband’s main problem has been his approach to the economy. He spent the first two years in opposition claiming that the government’s economic strategy would lead to further recession. He had no plan B for when recovery broke out, and looked upset that things are now improving. He spent the next period defining a new campaign about the “cost of living crisis” as he called it, just in time for inflation to slump, employment to pick up, and some wages to start to rise more than prices. Again his timing was poor and his ability to predict was faulty.

His main aim has been to run a series of linked campaigns against big business. Rightly seeing that big banks, big oil companies, big energy companies and others are unpopular, he sought to boost his popularity by threatening them. Each individual policy polled well. Who wouldn’t like a cheaper energy bill, cheaper fuel or a more attentive bank? Taken together, however, these policies have probably also weakened Labour’s rankings for economic competence. People are canny enough to know we do need big business, warts and all, and a government could make things worse by the wrong kind of intervention. Say it produces an investment strike? Say the big companies find ways round the price control?

Mr Miliband has to woo people who run businesses, who set up for themselves, who take risks, who save, who have decent jobs. He needs more of them to vote for him. His current strategy sends out the message that only the poor are safe voting Labour. That was not the way Mr Blair or Mr Wilson won elections.

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  1. mickc
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    But surely Milibands real problem is that Labour has no policies- yet.

    John Cruddas has not finished his review. He is no fool, and recognises the threat from UKIP so his policies are likely to appeal to those voters.

    Also the fixed term Parliament means the Opposition do not have to have policies available immediately. They can criticise without alternatives being available because there cannot be a snap election. Dave didn’t think of that.

    By the next election campaign, Labour will have a full set of policies likely to appeal to the electorate.

    Also, the “recovery” will be shown as the illusion it is, and interest rates will have risen.

    Sorry, but let’s have some grasp of reality. Labour are ahead without policies at present, and have a built in advantage of seats. Quite simply, Labour cannot lose.

    Reply Labour has plenty of policies – stay in EU with no referendum, HS2, energy price freeze, Mansion tax, benefit cuts for young people, more banking regulation etc. A Labour win is by no means guaranteed.

    • MickC
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Whilst I disagree that Labour has a comprehensive set of policies, even on your scenario, Labour is ahead in the polls-and has the in-built advantage of the boundary non re-alignment..

      The electorate are likely to consider that the current Government has not performed, why not give the other lot a try?

      To win, we will have to rely on the “Michael Foot” effect. I don’t think thats going to happen- but I think the “Ted Heath” effect will.

      • Wireworm
        Posted June 26, 2014 at 1:51 am | Permalink

        I seem to remember ‘the polls’ giving Labour the lead on the eve of the 1992 General Election. In fact, such was the sophistication of the BBC’s coverage, it had to adjust the predicted result throughout the night in the Tories’ favour. Michael Foot was far more convincing than Ed Miliband. And in those days there were socialists. Neil Kinnock was more convincing, but the electorate finally took a view. The Miliband ship is already listing and the rats are heading for the lifeboats.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    His biggest problem in that Labour created the mess, the bloated state, the huge deficit and the huge debt (that Cameron will have doubled by the time of the election). The use the idiotic magic money tree economics, the new rent act to come, the soak the rich and the politics of envy – but not all the voters are daft enough to believe this drivel. Many know full well that their wages are reduced due to competition from cheaper EU labour. Many know the state sector does not work and public services are dreadful despite largely wasting nearly 50% of GDP.

    Cameron seems to want to interfere in free contracts again – Vince Cable has warned “unscrupulous employers” that he would ban clauses in zero-hours contracts that prevent workers from accepting shifts with more than one employer. Yet another very silly move from this Libdem government. Libdem in the usual sense of being neither Liberal nor Democratic.

    Can these people say employers or landlords without the word greedy of unscrupulous.
    I have been in Cambridge for a few days, lots of traffic light set for nearly 5 minutes on red for cars and say just 4 seconds on green for some idiotic reason. Also lots of largely empty buses in empty bus lanes. Can anyone explain why cars that are paid for by the minute, called taxis are allowed in bus lanes but more efficient private or rented cars are not? Also why in London are Black Cabs given advantages over other cabs, or indeed other cars, they are all just cars – if anything the taxis are less efficient at the cruise round empty much of the time? Is it because MPs use them on expenses?

    Why are cars never properly provided for when they pay for nearly all the road system?

    Reply, NO MPs do not use taxis on expenses!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      That and he clearly does come across as a a geeky Wallace – from Wallace and Gromet but without the comedy.

      • Hope
        Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Tories claimed they would match Labour’s spending when in opposition. However, they have gone much further without the spending cuts the public expected. The economic plan is vey close to the Darling plan rather than the Osborne one. Therefore no difference other than spin and presentation. We should have expected the structural deficit to be nearly cleared by now if Osborne had kept to his word and done his job properly, he chose not to cut the public spending and allow the money to be kept in the system. Let us not pretend the Tories have radically varied from what Labour were going to do.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      To reply: What no taxis on expenses for MPs ever?

      I assume the Jubilee line was diverted to via Westminster at vast expense as MPs liked the idea for person convenience. Now surely the smartest tube station about.

    • stred
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      It is obvious that traffic lights are set to maximise delays to cars and vans in Europe. Forty years ago I visited Holland to stay with a Dutch friend I had met in the US. In the Hague he complained that the lights had been set to delay cars in order to make their use unpopular and public transport popular. Traffic engineers are taught this anti car culture and the Ministry issues anti-car directives. Only when the jams and pollution become too obvious do they use a bit of common sense and then they set the computer to clear jams as quickly as possible, US style.

      The unfortunate problem with the Labour vote is that a large proportion of the British population, particularly in Scotland and Wales, are dimwitted idealists like Mr Miliband and they do not understand or care about the effects of socialist taxes and regulations on enterprise. Labour could actually have Gromit as a leader and a quarter of the population would still vote for him.

      • oldtimer
        Posted June 25, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        The same thing occurred in London when Livingstone was elected Mayor of London. Back then I used to travel to car to the West End of London in the evening about once a month (in support of a charitable activity) because getting back home late was difficult by train. The change in traffic light settings was extreme and anti-motorist. That and the advent of higher charges caused me to quit that journey and the activity.

      • Jerry
        Posted June 25, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        @stred: “The unfortunate problem with the Labour vote is that a large proportion of the British population, particularly in Scotland and Wales, are dimwitted idealists like Mr Miliband and they do not understand or care about the effects of socialist taxes and regulations on enterprise.”

        That is obviously why we have a Labour majority government then!…

        • stred
          Posted June 25, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          Labour have picked up the liberal Guardian reading and student vote following the ratting on university fees by Cable and Clegg. UKIP have taken the traditional conservatives and skilled labour voters who realise that Labour is responsible for mass immigration and the effect on their jobs and housing.

          So yes, with the help of lack of boundary reform, Labour will have a majority with the support of a minority of idealists, wefare recipients and state employees.

          • Jerry
            Posted June 25, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

            @stred: Oh right, so when you use words like “is” you are talking future tense, what you think (hope?) the situation will be post May 2015, I understand now…

  3. Antisthenes
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Labour and the left have plenty of ambitious objectives many of which us on the right share which of course they vigorously deny is the case. The problem arises with the lefts policies to achieve them. Evidence of more than one hundred years of socialism in it’s various forms tells us that those policies lead to few successes and more often than not are counter productive and many times leads to complete failure. Coupled with which is the lefts propensity to formulate policies to win votes rather than to create an environment that leads to wealth creation, a better standard of living and increase of societies standards and values. Mix in the standard of politician that the left throws up most of whom appear to be incapable of objective reasoning, lacking in common sense. And whose ideology is more about envy and the transfer of power to that section of society that they claim to represent than equality and justice for all which they also claim to want but patently do not.

  4. acorn
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    ” … only the poor are safe voting Labour”. What a great line, can I use it? I would need to fit “working poor” in it somehow as well; there are a lot of those nowadays. And, I could flip it for a second line on a poster, “only the rich are safe voting Conservative”. 😉 .

    • James Sutherland
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Really, you’d need to correct it to reference only the non-working poor – the working poor certainly aren’t safe with Labour’s plans to further inflate spending and the taxes that enable it. The ultra-rich – like Mr Miliband himself – are safe as well, of course: they can afford the expensive lawyers and accountants to protect themselves from the worst of it, and easily afford the rest.

      It’s those of us trying to stretch our salaries to pay for all the Council Tax, foreign aid, green crap on our energy bills and all the rest of it who have most to lose.

  5. Denis Cooper
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    There is much relevant information on this single page:

    The table showing that in terms of the total votes received by their candidates the Tories came out 7% ahead of Labour at the last general election but still did not get an overall majority – and of course that bias in the electoral system has not been removed, it may be a bit lower or a bit higher next time, but it will still be there – and that at the end of May the average poll lead of Labour over the Tories was about 4%.

    And the charts showing how support for the three old parties and UKIP has evolved over the past four years; with the early collapse of the LibDems mostly benefiting Labour and putting them ahead of the Tories; and the brief period at the end of 2011 when the public were impressed by Cameron’s defiance of Merkel, his veto of the EU treaty she wanted, and the Tories matched Labour; followed by the rise of UKIP eating into the support of both Labour and the Tories with the LibDems drifting further down, showing that even if the Tories succeeded in their campaign to eradicate UKIP it would bring them little net benefit vis-à-vis Labour.

    Of course there is no way to predict what will happen over the next eleven months, but it seems clear that the coalition parties are not yet getting a lot of credit for the economic recovery and it looks unlikely that the Tories will be able to build the lead over Labour that they will need to get an overall majority.

    And of course until September there will be the uncertainty about Scotland.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      Indeed probability of a Tory overall Majority based on these poles is just 10%!

      All because Cameron is essentially a big government, 299 tax increasing, greencrap, IHT and EU ratting LibDem at heart. He has thus saddled himself with the Libdems due to his broken compass.

      What is he doing in the Tory party? He is also helped by the uselessness of Miliband and the boom in London from oversees money, the Euro crisis and the Arab spring.
      Do not forget Miliband can offer an EU referendum too if needed and would be far more credible than the ratter Cameron.

      • oldtimer
        Posted June 25, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        I disagree. Labour had offered a referendum on Lisbon, but failed to honour the pledge. Any new offer will be flung back in his face.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted June 25, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

          So just as bad as Cameron then.

          • oldtimer
            Posted June 25, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

            Worse than Cameron as he at least had the fig leaf that the treaty was signed by the time he became PM. The ral power to call a referendum at the relevant time rested with the Labour government of the day.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted June 26, 2014 at 5:44 am | Permalink

            Once ratified a referendum was clearly even more important.

    • Martin Ryder
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Denis – I always read your posts, in this blog and elsewhere, as they are always informative and sensible. May I suggest that you stand for parliament.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        Once was enough.

  6. Roy Grainger
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I read a comment recently that the only people left voting labour are Guardian readers, benefits claimants and public sector workers. These are all declining in number. His policies, as you note, seem to be designed to shore up this core vote. For example, he keeps banging on about the so-called bedroom tax which has no direct relevance at all to a large majority of voters. However, even without wider appeal he may still gain a majority given the UKIP wild card and Cameron’s lamentable inability to enforce the boundary change policy which was in the coalition agreement (Tory MPs were also somewhat to blame for this by annoying the LibDems by blocking Lords reform which was also in the agreement and which no-one really cares about anyway).

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    How about considering Mr Cameron’s lack of judgment?

  8. stred
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The spambot is back and just rejected 5 minutes efforts.

  9. Old Albion
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Labour, Conservative, Labour, Conservative ad infinitum. You can’t get a fag paper between them.
    Both pro-EU parties. Both anti-English parties.

  10. Bert Young
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    “Leaders in trouble ” should have been the headline topic today . Milliband clearly has severe headaches with his Party and is not able to convince the media otherwise . Cameron is in more serious trouble because his lack of judgement has been brought into the public’s focus over his appointment of Andy Coulson together with the looming threat of rejection at the European Summit on Friday . Both suffer from a lack of real life experience before entering the field of politics and both endeavour to cover their tracks with ” PRism” . Being “sorry” is not acceptable from someone who is in charge of running the country and who has access to quality advice ; Milliband cannot tell the Opinion Polls they are wrong and he is right . I despair when I read and hear news of irresponsible and misguided leadership ; is it any wonder we lost at rugby , football and cricket !!

    • MickC
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      I disagree.

      The voters don’t give a dam about Andy Coulson-they care about there being jobs and affordable housing. And there are neither.

      Most voters see the rich getting richer, and the rest getting poorer. The present government isn’t/can’t do anything about it. The view is-why not try the others?

      Yes, Miliband is a bit Wallace n Gromit, but my own view is that the voters will prefer that to the Lord Snooty image.

      I also believe that the politicians were far too close to the media-both parties. This was always the case but became supreme under Blair-to our detriment. How on earth could a public anti war demonstration of close on one million people be ignored by Parliament?

      Answer- propaganda disseminated by the MSM.

      Time to make the pols accountable to us, not the owners of the MSM.

  11. oldtimer
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Miliband appears to be following a Labour version of dog whistle politics. It did not do the Conservatives much good in past elections; if Cameron and the Conservatives are lucky, it will not do Miliband much good either in the next one.

    Nevertheless there is a deep anti-business strand not only in Labour politics but also in the country at large. This is aided and abetted by the some in the media, notably the BBC. This reinforces the Miliband mantras.

    A recent example was the comment by a BBC business correspondent on the report that schools and young children should be introduced to the ideas of buying and selling and making a profit. He questioned this, observing that young children should not be “polluted by profit”. That is the mentality that is produced by institutions that rely on enforced taxation (under the guise of the licence fee) supported by the criminal law. The sooner the BBC is switched to compete via a voluntary subscription model of funding the better it will be for us and the BBC.

  12. Paul
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The reason Ed Miliband is struggling and no-one likes him is because he is a classic career politician and can therefore not relate to people. This of course is also true of the Conservative and Liberal leaderships, but is a particular problem for the Labour Party – the supposed party for ordinary working people. A geek straight from Oxford into politics – no career, no real job, no life outside academia, no idea what people are concerned about, never run a business, no idea of how business really works, born with a sliver spoon etc. A nice guy but unfit to lead a political party or the the country. Becoming PM has to be the only job you can get where you don’t have to have any experience of anything.

  13. Iain Gill
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I have been reading Dominic Cummings’s thoughts on the quality of our political class. On the whole the general thrust of what he says about the quality of the political class is correct, indeed its worse than he says, there are a lot of issues I see that he seems to have limited perception of. Sure Miliband is in trouble, but then so are all the party leaders. The country needs to do a whole lot better than this.
    I could personally ring round my mates and put together a better qualified, and better performing, cabinet than any of the party leaders are able to. It shouldn’t be like this.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      “I could personally ring round my mates and put together a better qualified, and better performing, cabinet than any of the party leaders are able to.”

      So could I, but how many would actually want to do such a job?

  14. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Labour ‘policy’ is just a series of sound bites. ‘The cost of living crisis’? Well, people have been pricing themselves into jobs and accepting part time work and zero hours contracts just to keep involved in the world of work. What does Mr Miliband prefer – the average 12% unemployment rate of the Eurozone or the 50% youth unemployment of Greece and Spain?

    ‘Rip off energy prices’ by the Big Six? Are they making higher returns on capital than the big food retailers? Does Mr Miliband have a scheme for capping prices at Tesco or does he accept that Aldi and Lidl are doing the job for him?

    ‘Not enough affordable homes’. He means subsidised homes but he won’t say so – because then he would have to say who pays the subsidy. Why should subsidies be tied to particular properties in perpetuity rather than to particular people just so long as they need them?

    We know what a Labour government would do if elected. It would either run a huge fiscal deficit or raise taxation to 45% of GDP. At least Caroline Lucas had the honesty to say so.

  15. Jerry
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Mr Miliband’s troubles got even worse today, after the farce that was PMQs due to his line of questions.

  16. peter davies
    Posted June 26, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    The bottom line is perception plays a big part. Milliband/Labour are not known for economic competence given the mess they helped create last time and keep very quiet about the EU but we know they are always happy to sign away powers.

    Apart from the 2 issues above there is not a lot of difference between them

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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