Conservative "poll blow" won't land on Ed

Leaked polling data suggesting David Miliband is considered more fit to be prime minister can be dis

Conservative polling, leaked to the Times (£), has suggested that Ed Miliband is not considered as fit for the job of prime minister as his brother David.

53 per cent of respondents apparently said they thought David was more suited to the top job, compared with 36 per cent for his younger brother, and Labour's new leader:

"Mr Miliband is seen as a nice, compassionate figure. However, voters do not believe that he has a clear plan for the economy and fear that their lives would be worse off with him in charge"

While undoubtedly piling yet more pressure on Ed to deliver the speech of his life this afternoon, this leak also highlights once again just how crucial David Miliband's choice about his future in politics could be to Labour's time in opposition.

Straight-forward popularity in leadership elections has never been a particularly good measure of electoral success, as Ken Clarke has proved time and time again -- in 1997's Tory contest, he was the first choice of more people than the other four candidates combined, only to lose out to William Hague in the actual poll. Of course, the situations are not directly comparable; the Conservative contest was conducted via a poll of MPs, rather than a full electoral college as Labour's was. But in one sense, Ed Miliband's challenge is similar to William Hague's, facing as he does a newly-elected prime minister still enjoying reasonable personal approval, having just beaten an apparently more popular colleague in a close-run contest to lead his party.

As much as David Miliband himself might urge unity and a break with "class war", his presence cannot help but encourage constant comparisons with his brother.

However, there is no reason why this poll should have a significant impact on either Ed Miliband's ability to set a new agenda or Labour's boost in the polls today. Despite the Times' decision to run this as their front page today, their article lacks sufficient information to draw any firm conclusions. It was apparently conducted "this month during the Labour leadership contest", and "involved more than 2,000 respondents online" who were asked for their views "after watching their campaign videos". Without more information about when precisely the poll was conducted, who the respondents were (party affiliation and so on), and whether responses were based purely on campaign videos, it is impossible to consider this a serious "blow" to Ed Miliband.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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