Ed Miliband is on a high: his party has a 14 point lead over Cameron’s Conservative party (YouGov/The Sun) who are themselves suffering from somewhat of a crisis of identity as Cameron struggles to find policies that will impress his right-wing backbenchers but will still keep his Lib Dem colleagues satisfied in government.
The Conservatives are struggling then, but, is it possible for Miliband to win the next election? His election to leader of the party brought widespread criticism from some in the party who believed that his brother, David, was the more confident character and was therefore more suited to the job. To some, David represented a new-era Tony Blair who would take the Labour Party back to 1997 levels of support. However, the votes of the unions for Ed Miliband eventually meant that he was voted in.
Miliband is still thought of as a bit of an awkward character who can’t really be seen to be a true leader. It was therefore important that he made a strong impression at his party conference last week. He had to make sure of three things:
A New Image
Ed took to the stage without notes, echoing what Cameron has done time and time again, and began to speak confidently, casually joking along. He had strong presence on the stage, moving around and making himself seen. Comparing this speech to his 2010 inaugural speech as Leader of the Opposition, the changes are profound: from a bumbling man behind a podium to an assured man commanding his audience. This was a new Ed Miliband, a true leader. That’s the first point ticked off.
A party with real policies?
Unfortunately, his speech was rather lacking in this department. Miliband mainly talked about his own life and his upbringing — making sure to explicitly mention, multiple times, that he went to a comprehensive school and that he was born in a National Health Service hospital. This kind of spiel of course excited the strong left-wing crowd, but it did little to allay voters’ fears that the Labour party were simply a party to criticise the Coalition’s policies while continuing without a clear policy plan themselves. Miliband also piped on once again about “dealing with the banks” but failed to say how he planned on doing so.
A party of the people?
Miliband talked of a “One Nation” Labour. This harks back to Disraeli, a Conservative politician and Prime Minister from 1874 to 1880. It was a bold move from Miliband. “He (Disraeli) was a Tory… but don’t let that put you off!” he joked. He praised Disraeli’s vision of a country coming together to defeat fascism — Miliband presented his vision of a Britain coming together today to rebuild the country after high levels of unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor, and a general view that meritocracy has gone out of the window. It was a clever hijacking of a traditional Tory ideal and an attempt from Miliband to claw back the voters he’d lost at the 2010 election — the middle-class, centre-ground men and women who had lost faith in Labour during the economic collapse in 2008. Miliband wanted to finish the idea of New Labour without going back to “old Labour.”
So that’s two out of three overall. Not a bad show from the Labour leader. In fact, YouGov polls showed that after the conference, confidence in whether Ed could become PM rose by 6 points. However, there’s still a widespread view that, currently, Cameron is better off as PM. We’ll have to wait and see how the Conservative party conference turns out before we can clearly say how well Ed Miliband has done. However, with Cameron finding it hard to keep his backbenchers happy and Osborne losing grip on the economy, it’s hard to see how Cameron can turn the polls around to a clear Tory victory in 2015.
If they aren’t victorious, it seems increasingly likely that Cameron will be ousted. Will this mean a return to the House of Commons for Boris Johnson? Probably not, with more right-wing characters such as Michael Gove and Liam Fox impressing backbenchers and Boris in the mayoral office until 2016. Boris fans will likely be disappointed come the next Parliament.