Labour fury as Ed lets PM make the running on a 'fairer' Britain

The best hope is that David Miliband will stop sulking and decide to help his brother out

Column LAST UPDATED AT 07:56 ON Mon 9 Jan 2012

ED MILIBAND, facing a huge test of his leadership after a series of personal attacks from within his own party, will tackle City fat cats in a press conference at London’s glossy Oxo Tower tomorrow.

But Labour MPs are furious that he’s allowed Cameron to steal his thunder on the issue after the PM used interviews with The Sunday Telegraph and Andrew Marr to promote his commitment to a “fairer” Britain. This includes a crackdown on executive pay – with shareholders getting new powers to approve salary packages - and his intention to keep the 50p income tax band for those who earn £150,000 plus.

What Labour backbenchers are saying is that Ed needs the X factor not the Oxo factor - and the best hope is that his brother David can be persuaded to pull his finger out for the party.

David Miliband has been sulking on the sidelines since being stabbed in the back by his brother for the leadership, refusing to join the Opposition front bench.

He has seen Ed's personal ratings collapse and the party overtaken by Cameron's Conservatives in the polls - a terrible verdict on an Opposition in mid-term during a recession. A YouGov poll in The Sunday Times showed Ed is doing worse than Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, with an approval rating of 20 per cent compared to 21 per cent for Clegg.

Understandably, Ed is the target for increasing sniping by those of his MPs who didn't vote for him. Labour MPs Graham Stringer and Megg Munn (hardly household names) were queuing up in the Mail on Sunday to give Ed a kicking while he is down.

Today the Tories are tweeting with glee a piece on the New Statesman website by Gavin Kelly, a former Number Ten aide, saying the Opposition needs to change. "A far bigger and blunter conversation about future choices is needed than the one that Labour has so far embarked upon with the public," says Kelly.

The Mole hears at least one veteran Labour MP has been cheerfully telling his newer colleagues, from the 2010 intake: "We could be in Opposition for a decade."

Ed has hit back at criticism by Labour 'guru' Lord Glasman that his leadership lacks energy by giving an interview to friendly Guardian pol corr Patrick Wintour that he is, on the contrary, a fighter. The Nerd becomes Rambo. It’s hardly convincing.

Die-hard Blairites like Independent oddball John Rentoul are so desperate they are puffing up Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, as a replacement for Ed. Others in the Miliband camp are saying a far better idea would be to get David Miliband to swallow his pride and start backing his brother by joining the Opposition team. As Donald Malcolm argued here last week, David should be in the Chamber backing his brother, not seeking revenge with his silence.

Ed's numbers may actually not be so bad. Analysis by Anthony Wells, a number cruncher at UK Polling Report, suggests that despite dire approval ratings overall, including Tory voters, his support among Labour voters is holding up at around 59 per cent.

Maybe. But those figures will be neither here nor there when the first post-Christmas session of Prime Minister's Questions comes on Wednesday. Ed needs to come back from this welter of negative comment with a seriously good performance. Has he got it in him? ·