Ed Miliband is “uncharismatic, uninspiring” and has failed, during his four years as Labour leader, to transform from “awkward chrysalis to confident butterfly”, says Jenni Russell in The Sunday Times. His personal ratings now stand at -39, a record low, while David Cameron scores -5.
That Miliband can endure the “incessant barrage of vitriol” while retaining his good humour is proof of his character, says Peter Oborne in The Daily Telegraph.
He is a decent, patriotic, trustworthy man and his achievement in “mending the feuds and enmities of the Blair/Brown years is truly extraordinary”. However, his party retains some “very dangerous” contradictions.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls’s neoliberal economics “co-exist uneasily” with Diane Abbott’s “warm-hearted socialism”; social authoritarians cohabit with campaigners for liberty, and lovers of big business “rub shoulders with union bosses”. Given this diversity, it is “no wonder that tensions have been growing behind the scenes”.
These strains exploded recently when The Sunday Times published taped remarks by Miliband’s policy chief, Jon Cruddas, in which he complained that a “profound dead hand at the centre” was preventing him adopting policies that he believed would win Labour the election.
Cruddas has a point, says Maurice Glasman inthe FT. Labour can win the next election with Miliband as leader, but “what is missing is a sense of direction”. The Labour party policy review has put together a decent set of policies, but it lacks a “narrative of national renewal”.
The Condition of Britain report published last month by the IPPR, the left-leaning think tank, shows the way forward, marking “an almost Galilean change of perspective for a party that has long insisted that everything revolves around the state”.
The report argues that centralisation of power, both in the market and the state, is the UK’s primary problem, but Labour has failed to seize on the message and sell it. And so the “most original left-wing thought for some years” has been “reduced to a nasty Labour press release on how the party plans to force young people into training”.
Miliband should read some novels. He needs to tell a story at the party conference in September: it is a “better path to power than rational policy prescriptions”.
The danger is that he will leave most of this “impressive, radical blueprint” on his desk, adopting the more cautious approach favoured by Balls and Douglas Alexander, the party’s election chief, says Andrew Grice in The Independent.
By September, Miliband must have resolved the “biggest dilemma of his leadership: the precise balance between being ‘radical’ and ‘credible’”. He still has a chance in 2015, “not least because the electoral map favours Labour”.
However, there is a risk that the Tories will succeed in repeating their successful election campaign of 1992, when they retained power with a “ruthless attack on Labour’s leadership and tax plans”, aided by right-wing newspaper portrayals of Neil Kinnock as a “dangerous leftie”.