For the past two years, this man and his photograph have struck hope and optimism in to the hearts of Conservative circles nationwide. Ed Miliband, the man who rose to lead his party with such Machiavellian efficiency, who happily slotted a knife between his brother’s shoulder blades and manipulated the union vote, once appeared to have all the Prime Ministerial appeal of Mr Bean. And with Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls quietly scheming in the background, the TUC constantly banging the public sector drum, and a horrendous fiscal reputation as a party, Mr Miliband originally looked set to be nothing more than another Michael Foot or Hugh Gaitskell; a footnote in history.
But after three weeks of party conferences, big speeches, and general PR rhetoric, the fact of the matter remains the same; according to a YouGov poll performed on 14th October, 43% of the British electorate would still rather see Milibean, the Labour party and Teddy in Number 10 over ourselves. And whereas his socialist vision of One Nation conservatism may not have taken off in the same respect as New Labour once did, he might just have shaken off his reputation as the “Tories’ secret weapon”.
Could ‘Red’ Ed be far more than a mere historical footnote?
But is this something we should even be worried about? We are in the mid-term of an austerity administration, after all, and a particularly tough one at that. Shouldn’t we expect to be unpopular, especially when we’re tackling the mountain of debt left to us by Gordon Brown and his now oh-so popular cronies? Surely our slight dip in the poles will rectify itself before 2015?
To put it bluntly, yes, this is something we should be worried about. If the electorate weren’t willing to grant us an outright mandate and a majority in 2010, even after the most unpopular Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain, we’ve got even more work to convince them this time around.
Let’s look at history. How did another initially unpopular Conservative Prime Minister manage thirty years ago?
Mrs Thatcher found herself in far worse times, poll-wise, during the early 1980’s. According to MORI, after receiving 45% of the popular vote in the 1979 general election, she’d reached our current rating of 33% by December 1980. But the ratings continued to fall, to just 27% by September 1981. Only a war over a handful of certain islands in the South Atlantic was able to lift the party out of its rut, nearby doubling the figures to 51% by June 1982. Quite the turnaround. But how does the current party shape up?
We polled 36% of the vote in May 2010, certainly not as well as Margaret managed, but we made it to 40% by June 2011. However, ever since then we’ve seen our support slowly dwindle, despite a brief 7% increase in December 2011 following Cameron’s veto of treaty change at the EU summit. As I’ve mentioned before, we now sit at 33%, having recovered from a low of 30% this September.
Yes, those are a bunch of nice statistics, I hear you say (or rather think), but what can we actually learn from them? Well, firstly, that it’s possible for our party to make a comeback, from as little as 27%, to convincingly prevail in the next three elections. Secondly, that a hard line towards Europe may be the key to winning back voters, a considerable number of whom have slipped to away to UKIP. And thirdly, an invasion and occupation of British sovereign territory by a military dictatorship, in complete contravention of international law, followed by an astounding victory against tremendous odds nearly eight-thousand miles away from the UK, despite the territory in question being virtually useless and simply a relic of our long-gone colonial days, is very popular indeed!
So it’s possible. But how do we do it?
That, I will speak of in my next post. And it won’t involve fighting a war (conventional or class).