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14 June 2011

More bad news for Ed Miliband

The latest poll shows a 10 point drop in voter confidence in Labour's ability to manage the economy.

By Samira Shackle

It’s been a bad few days for Ed Miliband, and today’s Populus/Times poll (£) will do nothing to ease the pain.

The key result is on the economy. Only 23 per cent of voters said they trusted Miliband and Ed Balls to “to manage the economy in the best interests of Britain”, compared with 41 per cent who had faith in David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and George Osborne. This is a 10 per cent drop for Labour since Populus last asked the question in March.

This shows that the coalition narrative that they are simply cleaning up Labour’s mess is working. This is quite some feat, given that the economy was growing at an annual rate of 4 per cent under Labour but has ground to a halt under Osborne.

It is worth noting that while confidence Labour has dropped, this has not correlated with any rise in support for the Conservatives’ plans. While the 41 point rating for the coalition team is down three per cent since March, they have still broadened their lead over Labour from 11 points in March to 18 points today. It is worrying that Labour has not been able to translate public uncertainty about the speed of the cuts into more confidence in their plans.

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This is because Labour is failing to articulate a clear alternative. It’s not enough to criticise cuts without explaining what they would do differently. While Balls and Miliband have endorsed Alasdair Darling’s four year deficit reduction plan, they are clearly not doing enough to restore public faith in their position. Simply criticising the Tories for hindering growth is not enough.

Worryingly, the results also show a substantial drop among Labour voters supporting Miliband and Balls. 70 per cent backed them as the best team to oversee the economy in March, but this has now dropped to 62 per cent. The former shadow chancellor, Alan Johnson, was widely seen as part of the problem with Labour’s image on the economy, but it appears that his replacement is not delivering with the voters.

The results echo those of a ComRes/ITV poll last month, in which 38 per cent were confident in Cameron’s ability to “see the public through the current economic situation” and Osborne 25 per cent. Miliband trailed behind on 17 per cent with Balls on 14 per cent. As in today’s poll, the results for the Conservatives hardly show resounding support. The polls consistently show the public unsure about the speed of the deficit reduction, and about the fact that cuts are mainly hitting the poor. This should provide an open goal for Labour. When will they start to take advantage of it?