Ed Miliband 'unfit to be PM' – but they said the same about Mrs T
Still, the Times splash is not what Miliband needs as he faces a backbench rebellion over the welfare cap
TODAY'S YouGov poll for The Times shows that a majority of voters are not convinced Labour leader Ed Miliband has what it takes to become the next Prime Minister.
Overall – including Labour, Tory and Lib Dem voters – 63 per cent said Miliband did not look like a PM-in-waiting, and 52 per cent said Labour was not ready for government.
This is despite the fact that most polls on voting intention – as opposed to party leader ratings – still give Labour an average three-point lead over the Tories, with 14 months to go before the 2015 general election.
Coming after a weekend of rumbling by backbenchers about his leadership, the Times splash is not what Miliband needed. Later today as many as 20 backbench Labour MPs are threatening to rebel in the Commons over his support for the Tories' £120 billion welfare budget cap.
Tottenham MP David Lammy, a potential Labour candidate for London Mayor, even admitted in a BBC interview that Labour did not look like a government-in-waiting. "We have to spell out to the county what our positive offer is for them... In the next 14 months we have to cross that Rubicon to being a government-in-waiting."
Among the rebels who will either abstain or vote against the Labour whip today is Diane Abbott, who told the New Statesman it was because the welfare cap was "part of a political narrative which demonises welfare claimants; most of the public don’t understand that half of welfare claimants are pensioners and that another quarter are in work."
Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, did her best to defend Labour’s position on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, saying the idea of a welfare cap was originally put forward by Ed Miliband - though Labour would implement it differently by tackling the root causes of the rise in welfare spending, such as the increase in tax credits to help part-time and low-paid workers to make ends meet.
Labour would attempt to shift the responsibility back to employers to pay better wages – despite the risk that this would lead to higher unemployment.
Reeves said: "We recognise we need to get a grip on the costs of welfare. Welfare spending has been going up under this government because they have not tackled the root causes of the rising bills." She added: "The vast majority of Labour MPs will be supporting Ed Miliband’s call for a cap."
The reason Miliband has ordered his troops to vote with the Tories is that curbs on welfare spending are popular with the voters – it’s those opinion polls again – and Labour don’t want to look as though they are on the side of the “welfare scroungers”.
Not everyone was convinced by today's Times poll. Radio 4 Today presenter Evan Davis helpfully pointed out there was actually some good news for Miliband in the poll.
Reading out the Times article, Davis informed his listeners that despite the paper's headline – 'Miliband is not fit for No 10, say most voters' – when you looked closer at the figures, Miliband’s polling rating was actually the same as it was last September.
And when you looked at what Labour voters told YouGov, said Davis, the figures were “not so bad”. The poll found that 49 per cent of Labour voters say Miliband looks like a PM-in-waiting compared to 33 per cent Labour voters who did not.
The Mole reckons Miliband needs someone who can put a gloss on the bad news, and defend the Labour leader; someone with proven broadcasting skills: someone like Evan Davis?
He might begin by taking a look at PoliticalBetting.com, which makes the useful point that leader personality ratings are not necessarily an indicator of voting intentions.
On 26 April 1979, a week before the general election, voters were asked: 'Who would make the best Prime Minister – Callaghan or Thatcher?'
Labour's James Callaghan scored 50 per cent, while Margaret Thatcher got a miserable 31 per cent. But on 3 May, the Tories won an emphatic victory and an overall majority of 44 seats.