Up until now, the fact that we know the date of the next general election has worked in Ed Miliband’s favour. He has known the timetable to which he has to work and has been able to resist demands to produce policy early by pointing out that we know the next election will not be until May 2015.
But in the present circumstances, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act is not helping Miliband. Normally, in the fourth year of the parliament with the government receiving a bounce in the polls, the opposition would be wary of a snap election. This would create some internal discipline. But everyone on the Labour side now knows that there are still 14 months to go to polling day. This means that there is plenty of time to argue about what should be in the manifesto and the party’s approach.
As long as Labour’s poll lead is this narrow, things will be difficult for Miliband. His allies point out that he’s come through sticky patches before and isn’t one to panic. But with the election only 14 months away and the press more hostile, there is now far more pressure on him. He needs his party to hold its nerve.