A surprisingly interesting election battle

The European elections are “not meant to be exciting and unpredictable”, says Iain Martin in The Daily Telegraph, but “this time it is different”.

The result of this week’s European, and local, elections counts because of their potential impact on the general election in 2015. Labour, which should at this stage be “well-advanced in establishing itself as a credible government in-waiting, is in trouble”.

If it falls into third place behind Ukip and the Tories, it “could even be fatal” to Ed Miliband’s leadership.

The “vanishing poll lead, campaign gaffes and the leader’s retro message” are worrying the party, says Rachel Sylvester in The Times. The Tories have overtaken Labour in two opinion polls for the first time since the ‘omnishambles’ Budget of 2012.

Labour’s poster campaign about VAT, which mistakenly included VAT-exempt food items, has raised questions about the competence of the campaign team, while the controversial party election broadcast has renewed concerns that Miliband is “willing to descend to class warfare”. Miliband’s tribulations do not end there.

He followed up with a “blundering TV interview” in which he was accused of being ‘out of touch’ (the very charge levelled at the Tories) for his apparent ignorance over the cost of his weekly shop, and was forced to admit he did not know the local Labour leader in Swindon, “even though he was supposed to be campaigning for him”, says Tom McTague in the Daily Mail.

The Mirror’s claims that 60 Labour MPs were employing staff on zero hours’ contracts are “deeply embarrassing”, says Richard Littlejohn in the Mail, and came days before Miliband’s announcement that a Labour government would set a statutory minimum wage target linked to average earnings.

The reason Miliband is struggling is because he “almost never does anything that you would not expect a leftwing politician to do”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. He recently “touted” his intellectual self-confidence, but if he were truly self-confident, he would “roam outside his ideological comfort zone and try out new ideas”.

What he really means is “ideological commitment”, which is “very different and much less impressive”. Last autumn, Miliband excited voters with a promise to freeze utility bills. “Itwas a victory from which he has never recovered.”

He has since announced “one statist idea after another, each of which has less political purchase than the last”: rent controls, interventionist noises on rail fares, a protectionist line on foreign takeovers, plans for a new kind of minimum wage. “This is a party innovating new ways of surprising nobody.”

Labour MP Simon Danczuk, writing in The Mail on Sunday, warned that Miliband’s strategy of relying on a “core vote and a few disgruntled voters” was “suicidal”.

Yet, in spite of this barrage of criticism, Miliband “ploughs serenely on”, says Matthew Norman in The Independent. Is this resilience a sign of “strength, paralysis or delusion”?

The question David Axelrod, the “Obama savant” drafted in as Miliband’s “two-minutes-per-day life coach” should be asking him, is: “Do you want to win this election or not?”

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