Loyalty will only take us so far

by David Talbot

The festive period is traditionally a season of good will; the nation’s increasingly extended sabbatical into family and faith. We now stretch what in most other countries is two days off into ten. The stresses and strains of the past year are forgotten, and the only talk of politics is that of the family variety.

For a glorious week or so we forget all about politics and politicians. Ed Miliband entered 2012 seemingly forgetting what profession he was actually in, and endured a torrid start to the year as a result, not because of anything he might have said or done – indeed the perception that he had not said or done anything loomed large amongst the charges – but because his personal polling and that of the Labour party’s were far below where they ought to have been.

Now that the new year has been ushered in, it is an apt time for reflection and pause before the year ahead. Twelve months ago, the great British public tended to believe that the spending cuts were indeed necessary, that Labour was more to blame for them than the Conservatives, and that George Osborne was a bad chancellor whose policies would yet further damage their our own financial prospects. However, they didn’t trust the Labour party with the nation’s finances and were reconciled, not resigned, to accepting the Coalition’s economic medicine. A year on, by and large, the British public still think that – with astonishingly little variance.

The Guardian’s seasonal poll did at first glance bring some festive cheer to the Labour fold. Compared to the outbreak of 2012, when the Conservatives held a 5% advantage, Labour now enjoys an 8% lead for the third month in a row. Impressive, you might say, but as ever read beyond the large print to find the true runes of what the British people are saying.

The personal ratings of Ed Miliband’s highlight the stuttering progress the Labour leader has made in the past year. 45% of voters deem him incapable of handling a crisis, 46% say he cannot understand their everyday lives and, most disastrously of all, voters still do not trust him and his shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, on the only issue that truly matters to them – the economy.

The one true ray of light is the thumping 43% cushion Miliband enjoys from those who say he is backed by his party. At 66% it has improved by 10% over the past year and, as any passing politico will tell you, the public by and large reward united parties.

The improvement is only relative, though, as overall the Labour leader’s ratings are still not good, merely a lot less awful than they used to be. However the public have rightly rewarded Miliband for consolidation.

The Labour leaders’ promise that 2013 will be the year in which he sets out “concrete steps” in policy is to be welcomed. His new year message, and the tendency to repeat ad nauseam “one nation”, is however moot. As Labour’s most useful pollster, Lord Ashcroft, has unearthed; only a minority of voters have actually noticed Miliband’s oft-used phrase, and even less understand the historical reference or the political land-grab Labour is attempting. For many, their best guess is that “one nation” refers to Scotland remaining apart of the United Kingdom.

Labour is undoubtedly in a stronger position than a year past and that can be attributed to the Labour leader. He deserves our support but, as the end of year comparison shows; there is much work to be done if Christmas 2015 is to be spent in Downing Street. He will at some stage have to identify the odd policy and, it’s a fair bet to say, Labour’s lead will be much less healthy by the end of the year should economic growth return. With that, a hung parliament will become the most likely outcome at the next election, and loyalty will only take us so far.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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6 Responses to “Loyalty will only take us so far”

  1. Nick says:

    Doesn’t solve the debt problems.

    How are you going to tell your members and voters that you’ve spent all their pension contributions a la Maxwell?

    What are they going to say when your ‘investments’ are worth zero?

    What are they going to do when they discover that if they had been allowed to invest, they would have had 500% more money than the state pension from the ‘risky’ FTSE?

    Difficult telling people they have been defrauded, isn’t it. Risky too. You might get attacked.

  2. Ex-Labour says:

    The evidence which came to light after Brown’s tenure as Chancellor and PM means the public know how the finances were plundered by Labour to support their pet projects. The public also know that the Red Ed’s were an integral part of Labour’s economic team under Brown. It is therefore unsurprising that Labour is polling low on economic competance. Ultimately voters when in the booth think “what’s in it for me” and when they do political realism hits and thats when the damage will be done to Labour.

    The more Labour plod on without producing any policies is becoming embarassing. If they are so concerned about the scrutiny that would be applied to any policy, then the assumption must be that they either have no policies or the policies are flawed. Or maybe Ed’s just waiting for the unions to tell him what the polices are ?

  3. e says:

    “We now stretch… two days off into ten”. No “we” don’t. You’ve missed a bit of the British public out of your picture. You’re talking of a luxury only some get to enjoy.

    By the way, have you noticed that your ability to read the public’s mind and state without uncertainty what the public think (without laughing of course) is a skill that’s proliferating?

  4. Renie Anjeh says:

    @Ex-labour To call Ed Miliband ‘Red Ed’ is utterly nonsense. Ed Miliband is a centre-left politician, a man on the right of the party. He is effectively New Labour adjusted to the new social and economic times that we have now. The idea he is some sort of leftie is just foolish. As for economic competence, the deficit was not caused by overspending or by a fictional shopping spree by Gordon Brown. It is a myth to suggest that the global economic crisis was caused by New Labour investing and reforming our public services. The problem was a lack of proper regulation of the banks with an unchallenged economic consensus about the role of the free market. Labour’s problem is that failed to be open enough about the deficit, failed to be honest enough about the need for spending cuts in the future and failed to have clarity over spending plans. That is what Ed Miliband and Ed Balls need to apologise for, but they should not apologise for a deficit which they did not create.

  5. Mike Homfray says:

    What this suggests is that the Tory vote is reasonably resilient. That’s because people who voted for them are generally getting what they voted for. I don’t think the Tories will drop below 30%. I also don’t think all that many will switch to us. There is both more polarisation and also less party identification which sounds contradictory but isn’t. We are more likely to get voters who either voted LD or didn’t vote at all last time, to add to our 2010 vote

  6. Renie Anjeh says:

    You should remember that we took councils off the Tories where the Liberal Democrat vote is low. Some Tory voters are turning and many of those who would consider the Tories will stay well away. I agree on the 30% but that depends on whether UKIP does actually become the Tories’ version of the SDP.

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