Coffee House

If Ed Miliband is to become Prime Minister he needs more than gimmicks

11 October 2013

Ed Miliband, everyone seems to agree, has had a good few weeks, even months. Everyone agrees on this even though Labour’s position in the polls is not significantly better now than it was before the summer.

The Labour leader, and again on this everyone seems to agree, has been setting the agenda. David Cameron has been forced to respond to whatever Miliband has been talking about. From Syria to the Daily Mail to the cost of living it’s been the leader of the opposition who has seized the initiative. As a result, Miliband looks stronger; Cameron somewhat diminished.

That, at least, is the conventional wisdom and, as is so often the case, the conventional wisdom is not wholly nonsense. It has certainly become more difficult to make stick the charge that Miliband is a hopeless wet fish.

Nevertheless there is a difference between getting a good press and convincing the public. A considerable difference, in fact. The press loves bandwagons and is constantly distracted by the latest, new, exciting, shiny thing. The public takes longer to be persuaded, if indeed it can be persuaded at all.

So I wonder if Miliband’s summer has been quite as successful as many people would have you think. Labour List have published the results of a Survation poll on the “cost of living crisis”. One question, above all, produced some interesting results:

Which of the following policies do you think will do more to help consumers with the cost of their energy bills?

Forcing companies to automatically put consumers on the cheapest deal they have available, and reduce the number of different deals they have on offer to simplify things for consumers.


Freezing the cost of energy bills by law for two years, to prevent any further price increases, and reforming the way the energy market operates to increase transparency and competition.


51.8% chose the first policy, only 37.9% the second. In other words, Labour’s headline policy from conference season is less popular than the policy preferred by an unpopular coalition government.

The Tory (ok, Tory-led) policy is the preferred option amongst voters of every socio-economic class and in every part of Britain except the north of England.

It is, of course, only one data point. Nevertheless it is a telling one. Because it suggests the public takes a more sceptical view of populist and simplistic policy solutions to complex problems than might commonly be assumed.

Moreover, this result – and no fewer than 38% of voters who intend to vote Labour say they prefer the government policy – suggests that Miliband has not yet made the leap from credible leader of the opposition to credible Prime Minister in waiting. And that is, as Neil Kinnock might remind him, a Beamonesque leap.

I suspect the public can recognise a gimmick when it is dangled before them and they have concluded that Miliband’s energy-price-freeze gimmick is indeed a gimmick. And they are unimpressed by it. They identify it, correctly, as a pose not a policy. Poses are good for winning headlines; they are less useful for winning votes.

So, again with the caveat that this is a single data point, I suspect this is a useful poll (and not just because it leads to conclusions I happen to find attractive). Useful because it reminds us that Ed Miliband is still a work-in-progress. The Labour leader may be able to identify problems; it is much less obvious that he has identified solutions.

Energy policy, of course, is only one small example of this. Much the same, I think, could be said of Labour’s economic policy. And that’s something that Labour partisans should probably find worrying.


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  • Jordan Moseley

    Bandwagon Eddie will never be ready.

  • figurewizard

    It’s a pity that Labour List’s poll did not also ask for a view on the 2008 Climate Change act, which Milliband as energy secretary added to the law of the land.

  • simmo70


    Political Timing only Benefits Politicians ,Afriyie’s
    call for an IN or OUT vote on our membership of the EU before the next Election
    by our standards was a Politician thinking on the right lines for a change.With
    our Uncontrolled Borders and Uncontrolled Government Policies since 1997 on
    Immigration the British way of life has been eroded.

    This is not a Racist issue it is an issue concerning
    Gravy Train Immigration and why British Citizens suffer through the EU’s idea that
    cultural integration works,it doesent.Tribal Fractions throughout the World are
    at each other throats – what is England Eden Reborn.

    Remember no Politician does anything with us in mind.

    Our Nation Health Service and our Benefit System has been
    well overburdened by EU directives but what has this Government done about it
    the Least Possible ,BS & sound bites.’Non Active’ Immigrants here cost the NHS £1.5 Billion per
    year.Why is the cost only £1.2 Million in France because the Electorate have a
    say ,and Frances Government remember the Revolution and do not do the EU’s

    Corporations here pay their Tax to other member states of
    the EU.

    The French have it Right ,We should be telling Cameron we
    want a Referendum now not when it suits Him,your renegotiations will certainly
    not be for our Benefit or the Countries..You keep mending the Broken Dam with
    sticking plaster – be wary it doesent break and overwhelm you.We wont get one
    under Labour – we want one now.

  • FairBobby

    England is now half destroyed through the imbecile policies pursued by both Labour and Conservative governments. We have surrendered most of our sovereignties and we are really not very far from bankruptcy. (whatever the politicians say).
    If Labour were to regain power under the leadership the the Marxist Milliband our fate would be sealed and we would decline into obscurity and poverty.

  • andagain

    Both policies are gimmicks.

    Neither does anything to face the fact the our rulers have decided to force energy companies to generate electricity in an expensive way, and then act all shocked when the result is expensive electricity.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Miliband is rubbish.

    Nonetheless, Labour is maintaining a poll lead of about 6% over the Tories, when the Tories need a poll lead of about 6% over Labour to get a majority.

  • Smithersjones2013

    If Ed Miliband is to become Prime Minister he needs more than gimmicks

    From the day when he walks through the entrance of 10 Downing Street that vast majority of the electorate (the 75% or so that won’t be voting Labour) will look at this sad excuse for a plasticine cartoon character and shake their heads in disbelief.

    2015 to 2020 will be a period of national shame where the country will bow its head in embarrassment that such an adenoidal parody of a politician could become Prime Minister.

    That’s not even without the usual disastrous Labour policies which he will enact that will likely drive us back to the brink of bankruptcy. The only silver lining from this is hopefully by the end of it the British people will with a bit of luck have had enough of Labour and the left for a generation or more.

    There is nothing Miliband can do. He is nothing more than a plasticine puppet

  • Daniel Maris

    As always, Labour needs to address people’s real needs. The job guarantee for young people will get a major tick. So will the energy price freeze. Moving to a living wage policy would be good. They aren’t credible on immigration though. That will stop a lot of people voting for them.

  • dmitri the impostor

    Alex Massie seems to have a talent bordering on genius for writing evidence-free articles. In fact, unless you count the percentage responses of more or less a gimcrack poll, this one does not seem to contain a single verifiable fact.

    ‘many people would have you think [tittle] … Survation poll [tattle] … preferred option amongst voters of every socio-economic class [tittle] … only one data point [tattle] … the public takes a more sceptical view [tittle] … I suspect they have concluded [tittle] … again with the caveat [tattle] …’

    The one redeeming feature of this screed is that he does not insult the intelligence of his readership by attempting to draw a meaningful conclusion. Pisseur de copie ….

    • Wessex Man

      ag between the

  • George_Arseborne

    Milliband had always been the one Leading and Cameron follows. Take phone hacking, Libor, etc. So your article is too late. Yet all opinion poll shows the electorates will prefer a Labour gov’t to a Con. Good economy recovery requires majority of the population to see change in their pockets not for few hedge fund managers. People wages are down, bills are growing higher. Who will like Cameron and Osborne to be incharge?

    • telemackus

      Sorry, still not getting you. I know it is like English but can’t quite pin down the dialect. Could you translate or point me to where I can find a Numpty-English dictionary?

      • Daidragon

        Your inability to comprehend basic English must mean you are an immigrant. Probably illegal. You should have to write every verse of God Save The Queen to prove your right to post on a British forum for British people. I’d accept the Eton boating song at a push. Or just go back to bongo bongo land and take your aids riddled, begging, NHS tourist, gay, black, nationalist socialist, muslamic, terrorist, sponger family with you. See, it’s easy to be of ‘The Right’ in these febrile times.

        • telemackus

          Sorry, me know understand you either.

  • Hello

    David Cameron identified the problem months ago. Miliband is still behind the curve.

    • FF42

      David Cameron said he would force energy companies to offer the cheapest deal. To which the energy companies said, bad idea. At which point he dropped any mention of it.

      Ed Miliband likely will not do anything either, and there’s the little matter of not yet being elected.

  • Russell

    The public can see a hypocritical con man when they see one. Miliband has shot himself in the foot …again…with his ‘wheeze on a freeze’.
    Not only was it Miliband as Energy Minister in the last government who has said energy bills must rise even if it does hurt the poorest in society, but he is the person who increased bills when in office and for the future with some of the government portion of the energy bill people get through the letterbox or direct debit.
    In addition this foolish idea is nonsense as frozen tariffs are available right now from different suppliers for longer than hi proposed 20months!
    The man is not only a geek, but a gormless geek.

    • 2trueblue

      It is a shame that people have such short memories, and Liebore are so well supported by the BBC and others. The energy companies must be delighted with him, there are more people singing up to longer deals, thanks to Milliipede.

      It is interesting that we are seeing so many results of things that happened during their 13yrs or the result of initiatives set up during that time.

  • swatnan

    Oppositions always have to rely on gimmicks to capture the attention of jounalists and the public. Otherwise they won’t get a look in. Ed could take up absailing or handgliding or kite flying just to increase his appeal as an action man.

  • HookesLaw

    Miliband had a poor summer.
    This is why he has lurched towards the marxist band of socialism in order to shore himself up with his party.
    There is no free lunch, despite his siren calls.
    Keep energy prices artificially down and we lose energy investment. Without energy investment there is no energy – it runs out and or the real price goes up. If the state invests then it comes from the taxpayer who is no better off.
    All Miliband is offering of course is a few months price freeze and then prices will jump up again.

    Miliband is as deceitful as we could expect from a Socialist – there is no cost of living crisis. The figures clearly say ‘No’.
    ‘George Osborne … was correct to say that overall disposable income, as opposed to just wages, actually rose faster than inflation last year.’

    We clearly have a squeeze brought about by the disastrous inheritance left by labour.
    Labour have tested the tax and spend idea to destruction. It failed. Socialist labour are deaf and insensible to the realities of the world. It would be a disaster if they were re-elected.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Actually, it is you Camerloons who are deaf and insensible to the realities of the world. The Millipedes are ahead. No matter that you Camerluvvies think otherwise, in your fantasy world. The Millipedes are ahead, because the Camerloons are proven failures now.

      It’s not like anybody loves the Millipedes, because they don’t. They simply reject the Camerloons, and so a switch is coming.

  • The Red Bladder

    In my life I have seen 14 premierships (two were elected again after a break). Not one of the rascals was elected on other than ‘gimmicks’ so I can’t see things changing now.

    • The Red Bladder

      Make that 15, for a minute I completely forgot Alec Douglas Home – easily done!

      • HookesLaw

        I presume that means 13PMs going back to Atlee.
        I have lived through them as well.
        I think you overstate the gimmicks.

        I think people overstate their anti politics opinions full stop.
        Politics is not perfect life is not perfect the world is not perfect you are not perfect.
        Democracy is not perfect.
        Just get over it and get on with it.

        But only a complete idiot would vote socialist.

        • The Red Bladder

          Churchill, the first time. I have also lived under the premiership of IDS – yes, that one!

          • The Red Bladder

            In my honest opinion your last sentence is spot on – provided you drop the word socialist, that is my view and I feel sure that we are still all allowed our own.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …you Camerluvvies are voting socialist, lad. So what does that make you?

  • zanzamander

    Here is a blueprint, call it open source, anybody can use it, FOC, to win elections:

    1. Promise 500% increase in welfare benefits

    2. Promise 1,000% increase in NHS budget

    3. Ensure that we accept at least 10 million immigrants from war torn Islamic countries around the world

    4. Promise to tax the bankers (500%) and businesses (another 500%) and

    5. Ensure that your party has at least 50% women and 40% from ethnic minorities, preferably Muslims.

    Now sit back and see those poll numbers and our international kudos sky rocket. Everybody will praise us from Obama to…well, Obama (he’s the only one that matters, really anyway).

    Now give me the keys to No. 10.

    • Wessex Man

      you can’t get anything past the moderator nowadays can you? what I was going to say was you couldn’t get a f

  • Swiss Bob

    Scrap the Climate Change Act or change the targets which is perfectly feasible under the Act.

    Thanks Ed Miliband, you’re a gift to sceptics, your bandwagon jumping and inability to resist cheap point scoring has woken the British people up to how much they are paying for this nonsense.

    • telemachus

      You miss the point of the article totally Swissie
      Reading between the lines the message is this
      Miliband has ,as always been very clever
      His headline conference policy may not be the most popular ooption but in terms of media and perceptions it kept him ahead while grey Osborne and flashy Cameron were droning on in Manchester

      • Colonel Mustard

        Yes he is very ‘clever’ is Mr Freeze:-

        3. smart in a superficial way
        4. Brit informal sly; cunning

        • the viceroy’s gin

          You’d be reminded that Dave is not similarly clever, one of the reasons he’s failing.

      • telemackus

        I fear for the future of our progressive national socialist party as Cameron continues to confound us at PMQs. Our lead is diminishing and very soon we will face another 5 years of humiliation as Cameron and Osborne………….

  • FF42

    Ed Miliband’s real policy on energy prices is to tweak the regulatory system. More Ofwat than Ofgem. By which point the average punter will have tuned out. Freeze my energy costs? Yup. I understand that.

    So it is a gimmick, but people understand it.

    The Labour leader may be able to identify problems; it is much less obvious that he has identified solutions..

    Roughly agree. More precisely, Mr Miliband struggles to articulate solutions, which is an important skill for a politician.

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