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17 March 2011

Balls now rated as “most capable” chancellor

Miliband's approval rating is -5 - the highest of any party leader.

By George Eaton

Given that Ed Balls was once ranked the least popular senior Labour politician, it’s quite something that the public now believes he would make a more “capable” chancellor than George Osborne. The latest Ipsos MORI political monitor puts Balls’s approval ratings at 36 per cent and Osborne’s at 35 per cent (17 per cent say neither and 12 per cent don’t know). Almost half the public (45 per cent) are dissatisfied with Osborne’s performance compared to just under a quarter (23 per cent) last year.

But the poll won’t make happy reading for the other Ed. As Paul Waugh notes, 51 per cent of the public “do not like” Miliband – the same figure as for Nick Clegg. That said, Miliband still enjoys the highest net approval rating of any leader (-5), compared to -8 for Cameron and -22 for Clegg. Yet, given that Labour has enjoyed double-digit leads in some recent polls, the survey will fuel the narrative that the party’s strong performance is in spite of Miliband, rather than because of him.

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Indeed, the poll confirms this intuition. While 45 per cent of voters like Labour, just 36 per cent like Miliband. With David Cameron, the situation is reversed: 47 per cent of voters like the PM but just 37 per cent like his party, a finding that suggests there is plenty of detoxification still to be done.

For Labour, Miliband’s patient approach could yet pay off. Unlike Gordon Brown, who raised expectations impossibly high and later disappointed almost all his supporters, the Labour leader is playing a long game. But no doubt some in the party will begin to ask whether they could be further ahead under another leader.

UPDATE: For the record, the topline figures are Labour 41 per cent (-2), Conservatives 37 per cent (+4) and Lib Dems 10 per cent (-3).

UPDATE 2: As Coffee House’s Peter Hoskin points out, the 51 per cent finding actually comes from Ipsos MORI’s January political monitor. So, not a bad poll for Miliband at all.