Counting down the final days til the General Election, the jury is still out on Ed Miliband and Labour, and no one can quite agree on what their verdict will be.
It has been one hell of a ride for the Labour leader, from the brutal leadership battle in 2010 which saw him beat his brother by a tiny margin, to the continuing claims from sections of the media that he is a weak leader. Has he got what it takes to come through this all and end up as the next Prime Minister? Or will he go down in history as the man who could never quite get his message across effectively to the British people?
The Labour outlook
In order to answer that question, it is firstly important to analyse the strength of the Labour message as a whole. On the economy the Conservatives certainly seem to have the easier sell. The last time Labour were in power, they presided over Britain’s economic collapse, and while it isn’t fair to blame the entire global financial crisis on Labour, Cameron has done a good job of sending the message that they were responsible. Meanwhile, the British economy has experienced solid growth in the last year under the Coalition Government, making it even more difficult for Labour to market the view that they are the party of economic competence.
They do have factors they can point to however. Labour have argued that the recovery has had a minimal impact on working families, emphasising the problems of cost of living, wage stagnation, and the growth of zero-hour contract jobs. Labour have pledged to create an economy that requires a greater contribution from the rich, establishing policies such as the mansion tax, reintroduction of the 50p tax rate, and the abolition of the non-domicile tax status.
It is the classic Labour Vs Conservative clash. The Tories on one hand are championing economic competence and rewards for hard work, while Labour on the other are emphasising a fairer, more redistributive society. Polls have indicated that these competing standpoints are neck-and-neck in terms of public support. Infact, a recent poll indicates they are exactly tied, on 33.8% support each! Clearly, neither of the two parties’ general messages is overwhelmingly convincing the public more than the other. The devil is going to be in the nuance. Which leader can articulate their political message more persuasively in these final days? Which leader can come across as a more confident statesman? Which is the more genuine person? These are likely to be the factors that will swing this incredibly close election one way or the other.
Can Ed Miliband live up to the challenge?
Ed Miliband is definitely not Mr. Charisma. He can at times be awkward and seem out of touch, he has done interviews where he repeats himself and sounds like a robot, and his slight speech impediment and nasal voice makes him very easy to mock. However, he was right when he recently claimed that he has been underestimated at every turn.
The media have been so hard on Miliband and have led so relentlessly with the notion that he is a liability who is too weird to connect with ordinary people. As a result, public expectations of Miliband sank very low. But in a strange way, this may help him in the run up to the election. We’ve already seen a significant bounce in support for Miliband since the start of the election campaign. His television appearances in both the Channel 4 Q&A Programme and in the two televised debates were successful, with polls suggesting a significant increase in support for Miliband in the wake of these appearances.
At these events the public watched Miliband directly, rather than reading about him in the press. Many of the viewers had probably rarely seen Miliband speak, other than the occasional soundbite from Prime Minister’s Questions. And it appears that a large number of them were pleasantly surprised. Miliband is after all a talented man, who didn’t become the youngest ever Labour leader by fluke.
His persuasiveness as a leader is proving to be better than many had expected. Yes he can still seem a tad unpolished at times, but does that matter as much as the press and the Conservatives have tried to claim? Does it really matter that he can’t eat a bacon sandwich? It is my belief, optimistic as it may sound, that the public are not as obsessed with frivolous stories as the media are. Now that voters are seeing more of Miliband talking about real issues, they will judge him on matters other than what he looks like eating a sarnie.
I do not claim to know what will happen on election day. It is well and truly too close to call. However, I do believe that Ed Miliband’s personal ratings will continue to rise as the election approaches and that this will help Labour’s chances. A leader who has for too long been written off is beginning to transform his image. Whether it is this new improved image that is remembered or the shambolic one of old will come down, of course, to what happens on May the 7th.
BRIT POLITICS 2015 General Election Team - About Jonathan
I am a 22 year old Politics graduate from the University of Exeter. I have just finished an internship at the London based PR agency Portland Communications, and am considering a career either in political communications or in journalism. Writing is one of my biggest passions in life.
I come from a mixed background; my mother grew up in south London and my father is from the United States. I have been influenced by both cultures and have ended up with a confused mid Atlantic accent as a result!
With the 2015 General Election just around the corner, I can’t think of a better time to get engaged with politics. Big elections are often the catalyst for getting more young people interested in Politics.
Obama’s 2008 election campaign is what kick started my love for the subject and I haven’t looked back since.