The future is not looking too clever for Ed Miliband. He may think it wise to let it be known he has the intellectual confidence to become prime minister, but most people are not willing to give him the chance to inflict his superiority on them.
A spate of bad news polls have appeared in the last two weeks and there’s no way two-brains Ed can make them look like anything other than foretelling a date with the political grim reaper – the British electorate.
Firstly, a poll by YouGov put his personal approval ratings (26 per cent for, 62 per cent against) way behind those of David Cameron (38 per cent for, 54 per cent against). While that poll, conducted for the European elections, put the Tories in a poor third it also showed Ukip likely to come ahead of Labour.
But it is the personal approvals that tell a story – Labour is more popular than its leader, suggesting it is getting by on tribal loyalty or a dislike for the coalition government.
When we get down to the modern-day presidential style election and Miliband is up against Cameron there is every likelihood his poor ratings will damage the party’s chances – rather like Neil Kinnock’s performance contributed towards Labour’s unexpected defeat in 1992.
More interestingly, the same poll showed that David Cameron has better approval ratings in Scotland (29/65) than Ed Miliband (23/67). For all the bluff and bluster of nationalists suggesting Scotland hates the so-called “English Tories”, Cameron is in fact more of an asset to Ruth Davidson than Ed Miliband is to Johann Lamont. Who would have thought that?
But worse was still to come. Earlier this week two polls for different newspapers showed Labour’s lead over the Conservatives reduced to only one per cent. The skinny decaf lattes at Labour’s morning press briefing were abandoned for double-shot espressos to help overcome the shock.
Yesterday was exactly a year until the next general election and Miliband should expect to be ahead by double digits at this stage. The normal form is for governments to claw back support in the few weeks before an election – but for Cameron’s government to be doing that with a year to go suggests Labour is on the slide already and could go into the election trailing behind.
None of this was helped by the revelations that the Labour leader wants to be known as Ed Mili-BANNED – as he prepares plans to introduce a bigger, tougher nanny state that will ban alcohol advertising at sports events, limit by law the sugar content of Frosties and Sugar Puffs, ban advertising of Irn-Bru before 9pm, and control where and how supermarkets sell alcohol.
This is just the sort of policy-wonk nonsense that tells Labour’s core voters that their leader is not one of them and has no idea of how normal people, simply trying to get by, seek to find some enjoyment in life. It’s called simple pleasures, and watching the Heineken Cup, eating a bag of Maltesers then watching Britain’s Got Talent and washing it down with a Vimto should not be seen as sins to be punished.
The reason for this slow but dependable erosion of Labour support is most likely the ever-improving economy. Unemployment is falling, employment is at record levels, the number of young people not in employment or education is falling and economic growth is trending ahead of forecasts. Inflation is falling too and is now lower than earnings growth – leaving the claims of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband that there’s a cost of living crisis looking like they are grasping at straws. Not least when the original crisis we are coming out of was caused by the pair of them when they were cabinet ministers. Why, even the pound sterling is having a rally against the euro and the dollar. Miliband needs the economy to go pear-shaped, not blossom.
Oh, and for a cherry on top it’s 15 years to the day that the two Eds conspired with Gordon Brown to sell off a huge chunk of Britain’s gold reserves at a substantial loss. Expect that anniversary to be recalled when the election comes up next year.
So no, it’s not been a good week for Ed Miliband. Only Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas might be feeling more nervous.
Of course, this could all become academic if Scotland votes Yes to independence – for that would undoubtedly cause a UK constitutional crisis that might yet see the election postponed so that Scottish votes could not determine a new government. For if Labour were to scrape a UK majority of, say, 30 and had won 40 seats in Scotland it would be forming an administration that was not supported by the rest of the UK but on the back of MPs from a soon-to-be foreign country who would have no constituencies a year later.
In such a circumstance the likelihood is that legislation would be brought forward to delay the next election until after Scotland’s secession – probably ensuring Ed Miliband would never be prime minister.
So Miliband desperately needs Scots to believe he will be prime minister and win the referendum. But Terry Butcher’s got the easier job. At least if he loses he still has the play-offs.