‘I don’t think things are going wrong,’ Harriet Harman insisted on the Today programme. ‘I think we’re making steady progress. And if you look at when people actually vote, for example in council elections, then actually around the country we’ve got nearly 2,000 more councillors since Ed Miliband became leader.’
Miliband last night admitted on ITV’s The Agenda that 2015 will ‘be a close election’. Harman helped flesh out why when she defended her leader, telling Today that ‘I think that Ed Miliband has absolutely identified that people are feeling a real squeeze on their living standards, and despite the Chancellor and the Prime Minister saying ‘everything’s fine, the recovery’s under way’, people feel the recovery has not reached them, and he’s put forward radical and sensible measures like freezing fuel bills and ensuring business get a cut in their business rates’. Miliband has indeed identified a problem, but there isn’t much evidence that he has convinced voters that his party is the solution. And this is what worries shadow cabinet members: that beyond negative messages about the nasty posh Tories, they don’t have enough to tell people on doorsteps.
Of course, this is a problem that always happens when a party’s timetable for announcing its manifesto pledges doesn’t quite fit with what the media wants to talk about or indeed with the political timetable of Budgets and other big government announcements. But the timetable itself is a bit of a problem too. The policy review had been due to report in 2012, but when Jon Cruddas took over, the timetable changed so that the first draft of the policy review would be published by July 2013. One paper was published in September 2013. Now the party is gearing up for the National Policy Forum, with The Times reporting today that Cruddas wants to make major decisions before that meeting this July. There are sufficient numbers of people in the party who think playing safe is better than being bold. Miliband’s camp say they don’t want to play safe, but they have some convincing to do before they can declare victory.