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  1. Politics
9 November 2014updated 09 Jun 2021 2:14pm

Labour’s angst has still not evolved into a challenge to Miliband

The Labour leader will almost certainly survive but he desperately needs to break the cycle. 

By George Eaton

After one of the worst weeks of his time as Labour leader, today’s headlines are uniformly grim for Ed Miliband. But as well as being dismayed by what is in the papers, he will be relieved by what isn’t: there is still no MPs’ letter calling for him to go; no on-the-record attack or resignation by any shadow minister; and no indication that Alan Johnson is prepared to offer himself as an alternative leader (“He wants an easy life,” one MP told me). 

What there is, as I documented in my piece in this week’s magazine, is a huge amount of angst and anxiety over Miliband’s performance and that of Labour. If the crisis has been amplified by the media, its origins lie in the party’s flat conference, the increasing concerns expressed to MPs about their leader on the doorstep (and relayed to journalists), a poll showing Miliband to be more unpopular than Nick Clegg and another showing that Labour’s vote share had fallen to its 2010 level of 29 per cent (which had a wounding psychological effect on the party). 

For now, Labour is trapped in a downward spiral in which the party’s funereal mood is reflected by the media, which further darkens the mood among MPs. To some, it is all dangerously reminiscent of the agonising over Gordon Brown’s position in 2009-10. “If we bleed Ed, like we bled Gordon, we could end up with 25 per cent of the vote,” one source warned. 

The task that Miliband, who will almost certainly survive, now faces is to break the cycle. He will use an address to the CBI tomorrow to again attack the threat of EU withdrawal under the Tories, but it is his set-piece speech on the economy later in the week that will be his real opportunity to reset the agenda. 

In these circumstances, it is easy to forget what the papers also show: that Labour maintains its lead in most opinion polls. An Opinium survey for the Observer puts the party three points ahead, while a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday has it five points in front (although YouGov shows it level with the Tories on 33 per cent). As one MP put it to me: “Ed Miliband must be the first party leader to suffer a crisis while ahead in the polls.” But it is the fear that Miliband’s terrible personal ratings have dragged Labour down, and will drag it further down, that explains why Labour is so unnverved at present. 

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