Has Ed got it right? Can the man who the Conservative media are at great pains to paint as a poor leader be manoeuvring Labour into a winning position? Or are the Tories shooting themselves in the foot now, then hoping they can reap the benefits later?
As of today Labour are ten points clear of the Conservatives now (following the ten point lead from ComRes yesterday, last night’s YouGov poll for the Sun has top line figures of CON 33%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%. This is the first time Labour have managed a double point lead from YouGov since March last year) and I agree that##Q##s probably little to do with the public perception of Ed, in fact it##Q##s probably in spite of him.
The sound bites we get from PMQs often serve as the measure by which people judge politicians and that judgement is really a question of how you like your bread buttered. If you like the yah-boo stuff (and I accept that many people do) then Cameron is a clear winner, if you prefer solid, factual debate, then Ed is streets ahead. That allied to the perceived policy vacuum that is the current Labour Party and the unrelenting campaign of vilification in the press, has conjured an image of an ineffectual leader.
I disagree though, I think Ed is getting his strategy just about right by playing to his strengths. The people will see through a facade, so he would be wrong to try to position himself as a combatant in the Dormitory Bun Fight. He has to distinguish himself in other ways.
The question the Tories have to ask themselves is, if they are looking SO good, why are Labour moving ahead steadily? If you doubt that last statement, let me give you this to think about – of the last 20 polls by national polling organisations, Labour has made gains in 18 of them, the Tories gained in just 2. That##Q##s now a trend.
So why are the Conservatives and Liberals being absolutely pummelled in the polls and can it be sustained?
There are lots of factors as to why Labour are moving ahead strongly, but the strategy being employed by the Conservatives of getting the bad news out of the way early on in Parliament is a well worn one. I think they call it "kick and run". They are hoping that a return to growth will fuel a wholesale return of voters to the Conservative Party and there are already signs already that weak growth has returned to the economy. So, perhaps their punt will show fruit.
The clever thing about this strategy is, I believe, Labour will gain nothing from pointing out that we have suffered unnecessarily and that our economy’s growth comes on the back of a stronger US economy, but there##Q##s no harm in making that case, so I would anyway. It might chime with some of the more rational members of the electorate, but I also believe it is on other grounds that Labour will continue to dominate the polls.
The Conservatives are placing their bets on people forgetting that they have been instrumental in imposing a huge hike in taxation on ordinary people, while cutting it for the rich. I don##Q##t think it will: the perception that the Tories are the party of the rich has taken root again and it will continue to grow, because they are. Losing the grey vote was a massive mistake as well. They are core Conservatives – people who are seeking to protect what they have – if I were Miliband I would have stated right from the outset that I would overturn the Granny Tax as soon as I returned to government, but I’m not doubting his timing, perhaps that will come later.
The coup de grace will be Labour putting forward an economic strategy that will make them credible and Miliband is right to keep his powder dry and just drop hints right now. Making noises about "Good capitalism" and "Bad capitalism" is already capturing the imagination (and News Corp has done nothing to dispel it with the latest revelations) – when he fleshes this out later in the Parliament, and make no mistake, he will, then people will have a clear vision of where Labour is positioned and where it is headed. The next election will be fought on fairness and common cause.
Labour is the party of everyone except the rich and while the latter are a formidable and cohesive force, they are numerically insignificant. Whether Labour will actually DO anything when in power is another matter and THAT is where the Conservatives can make hay. Ed has to clearly state what he is going to do, it has to chime with the collective British consciousness and then he has to go for it. One more failure to implement a programme of social fairness will do for the Labour Party for a generation and another opportunity will be lost, perhaps the last for Labour. Then we will have to open the question of Tory entryism into the Labour Party and that may cause a schism… again. The last one cost us three elections, the next one may cost us the Labour Party as we know it.
Ed cannot afford to fail to make Britain a fairer society, because the next Labour government may be the last if he does. Certainly, I would not blame the Trade Unions for seeking another avenue of expression, although I would fight against it, were the party to act against the common interest as it has done in government since the sixties. Drinking at the last chance saloon springs to mind. This is it, Ed. Get it right.
Today, Ed will make a speech examining Osborne’s budget and will juxtapose the party funding scandal arguing the Conservatives have become the old Toxic Tories again.
To counter this is he will offer the electorate a credible set of measures in the form of a five point pledge to protect family budgets:
The five are:
- stop the government##Q##s raid on pensioners and block its £40,000 tax cut to 14,000 millionaires;
- end rip-offs by capping fare increases;
- force the energy firms to cut bills for 4 million over-75s;
- stop excessive fees by banks and low-cost airlines;
- and defend working families from the raid on their tax credits by reversing the government##Q##s pension tax break for those earning more than £150,000 a year.
The Labour Party engine has restarted, it is fuelled up and soon they will be motoring.