Ed Miliband cannot have enjoyed the revelation last Friday that two out of three Labour voters want to ditch him and install his brother as party leader instead. But a new poll released today is potentially far more damaging.
According to a Times/ Populus survey, a third of Labour’s own voters prefer David Cameron to Ed Miliband as prime minister. It also showed that over the last four months, there has been a 5 percentage point increase in the number of people who are dissatisfied with Cameron but would still prefer him to be in Downing St than the Labour leader.
Speaking at Labour’s conference fringe, Rick Nye, director of Populus, made clear that Mr Miliband has a difficult task – because even if his party is increasing its lead against the Tories, the statistics do not look so good when the leaders are pitched head to head. As a result, the likeliest outcome of next election is a hung parliament, with Labour the largest party but no overall majority, Nye said.
Later, on his blog, he dissected the situation further:
Worryingly for Labour fully a third of their present voters say they prefer David Cameron to Ed Miliband as prime minister. Coincidentally this is almost exactly equivalent to the 15 point lead the latest Times/Populus poll shows the party holding over the Conservatives. Some of these people are unlikely to follow through on their current inclination to vote Labour, some in time will come to like Ed Miliband more so that their party and prime ministerial preferences are aligned and still others may end up voting Labour in spite of who leads it. It is how voters split between these three options that will help determine the outcome of the next election.
Liam Byrne, shadow work and pensions secretary and former head of Labour’s grand policy review, carefully avoided any discussion of Miliband’s electoral prospects when he appeared on the fringe panel alongside Nye. Instead, he focused on the three main battlegrounds for the party as a whole in 2015: growth, welfare, and capturing voters’ anxieties over coalition reforms to public services such as the NHS, education and the police.
But perhaps it is fitting to give David Miliband (who only made a brief appearance at conference) the last word on the task facing both Ed and his party. Speaking at a fringe event across Manchester from the polling tutorial, David acknowledged that the “two Eds”, Balls and Miliband, have much to achieve in the next three years. “They know and I know we have got a very big mountain to climb still,” he said.
Worse poll news for Ed Miliband in this morning’s Independent, which says only two out of ten people believe he has what it takes to be a good prime minister. The other crucial point is that despite widespread criticism of the coalition’s austerity plans, only 24 per cent of people polled by ComRes say they trust Miliband and Ed Balls on the economy. By contrast David Cameron and George Osborne are trusted by 30 per cent of people on their economic stewardship.