Ed Miliband has adopted a rather simple strategy: do nothing, and wait for your opponents to screw up. It’s lazy, but undoubtedly effective. The Tories are playing along perfectly. The last week has given plenty ammunition for his new theme — which he repeated during his union Sponsored Walk yesterday — ‘they think they are born to rule, but they are not very good at it.’ The Sunday Times reports MPs’ anger that No 10, the most visible part of Whitehall, is turning out to be one of the most dysfunctional. David Cameron’s odd fuel tariff announcement last week did have normally loyal Cabinet members wonder what on earth is going on in No 10.
Another MP points out to me that when Osborne was pictured on that now notorious train journey, he appeared to be watching a film on his iPad with his aide — at 3pm on a Friday. It may not seem the worst offence in the world, but it plays to an image some Tories have about chillaxing at the top,while those at the bottom risk losing their seats due to ensuing shambles.
Osborne’s work is certainly cut out for him, if today’s ComRes opinion poll for Independent on Sunday is anything to go by. It shows that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are now level with David Cameron and George Osborne on economic competence (which had hitherto been their main advantage). Labour is 9 points ahead on an Opinium poll for the Observer. It just needs to be 1 point ahead to win a majority at the next election. Cameron needs a 7-point lead.
Labour has had a lead around 10 points most of this year, and Miliband the most effective conference season. Cameron’s speech was far better, but less memorable. ComRes found that 33 per cent say Labour is a ‘one nation’ party where just 25 per cent say this of the Tories. ComRes also has Miliband’s (dis)approval ratings on a net -11, better than Cameron (-21) or Clegg (-38). Osborne is also not doing much to inspire confidence in the economy. Some 63 per cent agree with the statement: ‘I do not expect the economy to return to good health for at least five years’.
Now, I think an Ed Miliband victory would be a calamity for Britain — he has no policies and his ‘predistribution’ nonsense suggests naïveté of the most dangerous kind. But recent weeks have done nothing to change the balance of probability pointing — just — to Ed Miliband sending Christmas cards from No 10 in just three years’ time.