The polls are not very kind to Ed Miliband

Doing well or badly? 67 % think Ed is doing badly.

Questions:

 1. Is it possible to be a leader of the party, which has the ambitions to rule, when the public support for him is pretty limited?

2. Will somebody challenge Ed Miliband (and who) or do you think his position is more or less safe?

Answers:

Nicholas Randall, Lecturer in British Politics, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology University of Newcastle

1. Obviously, Ed Miliband would prefer to have better poll ratings for assessment of his leadership. At the very least he would hope that the gulf in his standing relative to David Cameron was much narrower. In one sense, this matters a great deal – the British electorate in recent UK general have tended to place more emphasis on the leadership images of the major political party leaders than they did in the past. This has meant that the policies and image of the party has become relatively less important. Potentially, Ed Miliband still has considerable time in which to repair his image with the public – the next general election is over three years away. However, lots of research suggests that the British public makes its mind up about the characteristics of party leaders within the first three months of their tenure and that thereafter these perceptions are very difficult to dispel. This might be less of a concern for the Labour Party were it demonstrating a clear lead in public assessments of its policies. But on the crucial issue of economic management they have yet to make any significant inroads into the public belief that the Conservative Party are the best potential managers of the economy. So at present, Ed Miliband’s leadership is one of two big problems for the party.

2. Despite these problems, I suspect that Ed Miliband is unlikely to be deposed. If we remember back to the years when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister there were repeated efforts to remove him as Labour Party leader. These were all unsuccessful. What this revealed is that it is very difficult to remove a Labour leader who does not want to step down. Procedurally, it would be very difficult to get Miliband to step down. Politically, such a manoeuvre would only be worthwhile for the Labour Party if there were a potential leader to replace him who looked like a much better electoral prospect. Some polling suggests that David Miliband might fare rather better with the electorate, but as yet he and those around him are showing little interest in deposing his brother. My best guess therefore is that a challenge is unlikely and that the leadership is, at least until the next general election, Ed Miliband’s for as long as he wants it.

Robin Pettitt, Lecturer in Comparative Politics, School of Social Science, Kingston University

1. Well, it is possible, but not very good for your long term career prospects. Opinion polls are only indicators of what is going on and the real test will always be the election. It is very difficult to survive an election defeat, but bad polls are much easier. There can always be the hope that things will get better. However, there is also the factor that the Labour Party does not tend to get rid of leaders. This is partly based on the old tradition of solidarity in the trade union movement. You stand together or you fall. The Labour Party has always been extremely reluctant to challenge the leader. This is strengthened by the fact that the process of electing a new leader is slow and cumbersome. This is in sharp contrast to the Conservative Party which has always been quite happy to sacrifice a leader who looks to be doing badly. Even Thatcher was kicked out when it looked like she was losing her grip, and she was one of the Conservative Party’s strongest leaders!

So, my prediction is that Ed will stay as leader until the next election, very likely lose, and then step back.

2. I think he will stay as leader until the next election. There may well be some in the party, particularly from the last remnants of New Labour, who will try to challenge him. However, I would be surprised if anyone with a real chance of actually forcing his resignation would want to. Anyone with realistic ambitions for the leadership would know that their best chance is to wait until after the next election and do it then. Challenging the leader before an election will damage the challenger, so better to wait until after the next election.

So, in short, I would be surprised if Ed was not the leader to take Labour into the next election.

Victoria Honeyman, Lecturer in Politics, POLIS, University of Leeds

1. Yes it is, but not for long. Ed Miliband has one thing going for him, which might buy him a bit of time. The public, and therefore political parties, do not like changing leaders too often as it suggests instability within the party. Therefore, Ed Miliband has a limited window in which to increase his popularity before his colleagues begin looking for alternatives.

2. He’s safe, for now. In terms of challenges to him, I would have guessed at Ed Balls, although his popularity in the party is not particularly high, possibly Douglas Alexander (although he and Ed Miliband’s we’re both firm Brownites). No one candidate seems likely, which might also buy Miliband time.

Mark Shephard, Senior Lecturer, Department of Government, University of Strathclyde

1) He is leader of the opposition and it is harder to be heard and easier to be ignored – this problem affected the Conservatives for years during the Blair years.

2)His public speaking comes across as wooden and he needs lessons in getting the message across quickly and with energy and passion. He lacks charisma. He needs a makeover and needs to look more regular like your average man. If he could just have messy hair and loosen up a little bit for one day! It works for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

3) He was in a run-off for Labour leader with his brother David and since he looks a lot like his brother one reason I don’t think he connects is because people cannot remember his name (ie which brother was elected.

4) The Labour Party is an interesting party and making a prediction is a difficult task. If there is to be a change (I actually don’t think Miliband is getting enough credit – e.g. fair and responsible capitalism which Cameron has run with but Miliband was arguably first to push it), a Scottish leader might be a good idea given the upcoming independence referendum and the added legitimacy this would give to those trying to defend the union from Westminster.

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