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Voters cannot see Ed Miliband in power

The latest poll highlights the challenges that the Labour leader faces in Liverpool.

The Times has released its annual pre-conference poll (£), and it shows that Ed Miliband is still failing to command the support of his party.

The headline figures in the Populus poll show Labour holding the lead, with 38 per cent of the vote. The Conservatives are four points behind with 34 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats are on 12.

According to the poll, 63 per cent of the public cannot see Miliband as prime minister. Clearly, nearly a year after becoming Labour leader, Miliband is still struggling to connect with the public

Perhaps more worryingly -- and this is the figure the Times has focused on -- is that 49 per cent of Labour supporters also hold this view, with 22 per cent "strongly" agreeing. On this point, Labour voters are divided, as the other half - 47 per cent - believe that Miliband will be elected.

These figures are not good, and highlight the challenges faced by Miliband at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool this year. In his speech to delegates, he must try to define his leadership. While he has been praised for his reaction to events such as phone-hacking, there is doubt about whether this has reverberated outside the Westminster village, and he has yet to set out a clear programme for his party.

Labour holds the lead in the polls, but this is largely due to a drop in Tory support rather than positive gains. With his personal approval ratings still trailing behind David Cameron and Nick Clegg's, Miliband must convince his own party of his viability as a leader before he can convince the public.

UPDATE: 13.46

I've just had a call from Ed's press office, who are keen to highlight the fact that Ipsos MORI gives Miliband the highest net personal rating of the three leaders. These ratings give Clegg -25, Cameron -12, and Miliband -7. They also point out that this is almost exactly the same as Cameron's ratings after one year as leader, when his net approval was -6, and that Miliband's satisfaction rate of 36 per cent is higher than Cameron's was at any time until October 2007, when he had been leader for two years.