It has been a mixed time for Ed Miliband. The general consensus was that his conference speech was flat and uninspiring with important aspects of policy such as the deficit omitted or even forgotten. (By the way when did the use of paper become code for politically inept)
Then there was the parliamentary vote on military action in Iraq – Miliband, although showing leadership, was forced to sack one junior aide in his defence team for voting against the party line and had one shadow front bencher, Rushanara Ali resign in order to abstain from the vote – Pure politics but still very bizarre!
At the end of last week Ed Miliband was still on a high securing a seven point lead in the latest opinion poll but the latest Ashcroft poll puts them neck-and-neck with the Tories.
It's no secret that I have a soft spot for Ed Miliband, I don’t know why, I just like him. I look beyond the media obsession with his nasal tones and geeky looks and see a political leader who was ahead of the game on press and media reform, the cost of living crisis, cracking down on the bankers and the energy companies and avoiding military action against Syria in 2013.
But while he set the political agenda on these past political issues, what matters now is how he presents himself and his party on the key political issues in the run up to the General Election; and I have to say based on his speech it's not looking good for Ed.
Miliband’s conference speech failed to address Labour’s plans for deficit reduction, control of immigration and the future of Britain’s membership of the EU. All three of which, will be critical issues at the election next May.
It's time to move beyond the ‘cost of living’ mantra...
On the deficit, Miliband will need to move beyond his successful narrative of the cost of living crisis as it will not take him through to May 2015. He may well be able to cap train fares and energy bills and even abolish the so called ‘Bedroom Tax’ but in reality deep public spending cuts and probably tax rises will still be needed for at least another five years. There is still an economic legacy to deal with and Labour have not detailed a strategy on how they will deal with this should they form the next government.
UKIP is coming after Labour voters on immigration issue...
Whether the Labour Party like it or not, immigration is a big problem in many communities up and down the country. Traditional Labour voters and floating voters alike are looking for credible solutions and if they are not forthcoming the seduction of Nigel Farage and UKIP may well cost Labour votes in their heartlands and in marginal seats.
Labour cannot rely on a strategy of labelling UKIP racist and claiming that they are really big bad Thatcherite Tories. For one, it is not true, and secondly that strategy did not work in the European or the local elections in May and its unlikely to work at the General Election. Labour must come up with policies that the country can believe in to tackle the huge problems associated with modern immigration and migration.
Sorry Ed, it’s time to re-consider the EU referendum…
On Europe, the time has come to settle the issue. Europe has been a festering boil on the backside of British Politics for thirty years and more and it needs to be lanced. The people want their say. The merits of our membership of the EU can be debated at another time, but people want to know that they will get a say, Miliband’s policy of no to an in out referendum is not what voters want to hear – he has just seven months to re-consider that position or this is also likely to cost him votes.
He must back English votes for English laws…
But perhaps the biggest threat to Miliband securing an overall majority is the English votes for English laws debate that has come out of the recent Independence referendum in Scotland. Miliband must have the confidence to believe he can win a majority in England and concede on this point, if not, he will allow his political opponents, rightly or wrongly to portray him as anti-English and having an open policy of discrimination against the English who make up 85% of the electorate.
Miliband should be aware that when the people of Scotland in the 1980s came to the conclusion that the Conservative Party were anti-Scottish and discriminatory against the Scots the party were politically wiped out and have not recovered thirty years on. If Miliband believes that this can not and will not happen to Labour in England then he his deluding himself.
The deficit, immigration, the EU and English votes for English laws will be at the forefront of the battle at the next General Election. If Labour do not address these key issues, and opinion poll leads start to disappear into the distant past, then Labour will lose and be out of power for a generation.