In American politics, they call it the “Mommy Problem”, with Democrats scoring well on warmth but badly on power. Invariably the Republicans have the opposite problem (the “Daddy problem”). Neither is capable of providing both mommy and daddy, so it becomes a race to maximise polling positives and minimise polling negatives.*
Ed Miliband has a very clear “Mommy problem”. Yesterday UK Polling Report noted:
“The large majority of ratings were negative, but David Cameron’s best (or least worst) ratings were on being seen as competent (37%), strong (35%), up to the job (35%) and having a clear sense of purpose (35%). His worst ratings by far were on caring about ordinary people (just 22%) and being in touch (25% – with 67% seeing him as out of touch).
Ed Miliband’s ratings were almost the exact opposite, his strongest attributes were being seen to care about ordinary people (46%) and being in touch (35%). However, his main weaknesses were on being strong (22%), decisive (21%) and being up to the job (22% – with 55% thinking he is not up to the job).
David Cameron’s is increasingly being seen as out of touch and uncaring towards ordinary people… but does better on being seen as a strong and competent leader. Ed Miliband is seen as much more in touch and caring, but has still not convinced people he is up to the job.”
That is the Mummy/Daddy political divide in a nutshell. The question is, which do voters prefer in a time of economic and social strife? Warm caring and compassionate? Or tough, harsh and uncompromising? Conventional political wisdom says that people prefer “Daddy”, yet at the moment Ed Miliband’s leadership ratings are better than Cameron’s – or to be more accurate, less bad…(all major party leaders have incredibly negative ratings – a plague on all your houses indeed).
To keep himself in the game in the run up to 2015, Ed will want to maximise his strongest polling advantage over Cameron – caring about ordinary people and being “in touch” – whilst making inroads into strong, decisive and “up to the job”.
But how do you project that you’re up to the job when you’re in opposition? That’s an age old problem. Let’s save that for a another post and another day…
* - if you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable about the nuclear family/heteronormative nature of this metaphor, join the club, but alas that’s how it’s known.