The parliamentary term came juddering to an end yesterday. MPs have packed up their files and returned to their constituencies, holidays have been booked and passports searched for. There are now less than two years until the election, so with that in mind – how’s Ed Miliband doing?
Here’s his end of term report – this year focussing on the delivery on The Three Ps – Polling, Policies and Party:
Polling – the question is, which polling? At present it’s unclear whether Labour’s lead is in double digits or low single digits – if there’s a lead at all – as the polls leap around all over the place. Things are certainly in flux. But until a few months ago Labour was retaining a fairly solid lead in the polls and had been for over a year. That’s less true now. But of far more concern for Miliband personally are his troubling (and falling) personal ratings, with IPSOS MORI rating him as unpopular as William Hague was at a similar point in his party leadership tenure. Yet for Labour to be back ahead after such a hefty thumping three years ago is an achievement, although the lead looks a tad flimsy at the moment. GRADE – B-
Policies – what policies? No, that’s unfair – the party does now have a range of policies that have been unveiled over the last 12 months or so. The problem is that none of them are, so far, the kind of barnstorming, pledge-card adorning, attention grabbing ideas that the party probably needs. The compulsory job guarantee is a good idea though, as is aiming for full employment. And the party could do with talking about its “zero based budget review” far more often when under pressure on cuts/spending. Clearly there’s an agenda under the surface, but when will be see it? And what will it look like. I’d bet the house on a house building programme – but it hasn’t been announced. Yet. GRADE – C
Party – Until a few weeks ago, it might have been possible to argue that Ed Miliband didn’t really have a passion for party organisation. Sure, he cares hugely about the kind of organisation that Arnie Graf is trying to deliver across the country. And he brought us Refounding Labour, which although it ended up being a bit of a damp squib, was at least an attempt to change the party. But the passion Miliband had during the leadership election for doing Labour politics differently and changing the party fundamentally appeared to have fallen by the wayside. Until last week, when Ed Miliband decided to completely change the entire way the party is run, organised and funded. Quite the turnaround. Only Ray Collins knows how his review will end up squaring the circle on some of the messy issues surrounding party reform. But we now have to say – whatever we think of Ed’s plans – that he has been “brave”, and that he’s sure as hell going to have to be passionate about the minutiae of party organisation now GRADE – B+
Overall – Not a bad year for Miliband or the Labour Party by any stretch of the imagination, although it looks worse right now, following the events of Falkirk, the resignation of Tom Watson and everything that came after. But this last year has had it’s share of highs – notably The “One Nation” conference speech and the spate of by-election wins in November (particularly in Corby). Yet there have also been disappointments too – the County Council election results were unspectacular at best, and the party has yet to develop a strategy for dealing with UKIP more generally. With two years to go the party could be in a far worse position – but the position could be far stronger too. If everyone is still saying the same next year, start worrying. GRADE – B