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.

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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