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15 December 2010

Why Miliband’s poor ratings shouldn’t trouble Labour

The Labour leader has sensibly avoided raising unrealistic expectations.

By George Eaton

Labour may be ahead of the Tories in the polls, but Ed Miliband’s poor approval ratings are starting to trouble some in the party.

Today’s Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll gives Miliband a satisfaction rating of only +1, the lowest in MORI polling for a new leader, with the exception of Michael Foot, William Hague and Nick Clegg. Tony Blair, John Smith, Neil Kinnock, David Cameron, Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith all had higher ratings at this stage of their leadership.

In mitigation, it is worth noting, as YouGov’s Peter Kellner has, that all three main party leaders are unusually unpopular. In a post-expenses and post-crash era, it may no longer be possible for any political leader to command widespread approval.

As Kellner writes:

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The cold reality is that electoral and financial reality have combined to deprive the public of a truly popular party leader who offers an attractive, alternative vision of the future.

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Miliband’s low ratings are in part a reflection of his decision not to raise unrealistic expectations. Unlike Gordon Brown, who raised expectations impossibly high and later disappointed almost all of his supporters, Miliband is playing a long game.

But more striking is the revelation that Lib Dem voters feel more warmly towards David Cameron than to Miliband. While 58 per cent of Lib Dems are satisfied with Cameron’s performance, only 39 per cent are satisfied with Miliband’s.

This suggests that Cameron’s attempt to establish himself as a unifying national leader, as seen in his response to the Bloody Sunday inquiry, may be working. It also suggests Miliband’s own “comprehensive offer” to the Lib Dems has come just in time.