It’s September 25th 2010, and Ed Miliband has just been elected leader of the Labour Party, defeating his brother David with 50.65% of the vote. Imagine you’re in Ed’s shoes; leader of the opposition, a fresh face, against an unorthodox government that could collapse at any given moment, if (and it’s a big if) they make it to 2015 they’ll be limping.
It’s 2015, where has it all gone wrong?
We sit just a few weeks away from the election, Labour floating around 35% in the opinion polls, a figure roughly almost matched by the Conservatives. This wasn’t supposed to happen. How can the majority party in a frankly mismatched coalition still, five years after forming the coalition, be polling the same numbers as the opposition? Maybe we should be praising the Tories, after all, the economy is getting back on track and they’ve managed to put the blame for a lot of negative things, tuition fees and the sale of the Royal Mail, on to their Liberal Democrat counterparts. Whilst I can admit the Conservatives have handled this coalition relatively well, I still believe that a party as unpopular as they have been at times in the last five years shouldn’t be drawing level with the opposition with just weeks to go. This was Labour’s election to lose, and now that might just happen.
The obvious person to blame is Ed Miliband himself, and that, in many ways, is fair enough. A recent YouGov poll found 43% of people saw Miliband ‘out of his depth’, before he is even near Number 10. 24% found him ‘weird’, 21% found him ‘out of touch’. I would think it is pretty clear now, to see that perhaps the wrong brother was elected. Of course at the time Ed was elected he was seen as something different to his more Blairite brother David, a change most in the Labour Party would’ve admitted had to happen. If they had known he would come across as awkward, with or without bacon, maybe the unions that are now threatening to desert the party if they lose on May 7 wouldn’t have elected him.
But despite all of this, I feel a tad sorry for Ed. Is it really all his fault? Is it his fault that Labour has, until very, very recently offered little alternatives policy-wise and has instead simply ridiculed the work of the coalition? Probably not entirely; is it his fault that a lot of people simply don’t like his shadow chancellor, Ed Balls? Again, probably not.
However, the one thing I can’t quite get my head around is this; since mid-2012, when opinion polls showed Labour support falling from the mid 40% to the low-to-mid 30% it finds itself at now, little has changed. I’m not necessarily implying a leadership change was necessary, that could have easily back-fired, but it seems, with not long to go before election day, that the Labour Party just sat back and watched. They did nothing.
Labour could have won this election with a majority, after the forming of the coalition in 2010 most would have said they should have. But the chances are they won’t, and they only have themselves to blame