The Personal Touch?

As politicos react to Ed Miliband’s first conference as leader of the Labour Party, we thought we’d look back at how his personal poll ratings compare with David Cameron’s when he was starting out as leader of HM Opposition.

A year into his leadership, Ed Miliband is struggling to gain personal traction among the public. As well as a relatively low public profile, our most recent poll shows that a majority (57%) of the public disagree that he is a credible prime minister in waiting.

But how does this compare to our current Prime Minister? At first glance, fairly similarly.

After a year and a half as opposition leader, Mr Cameron was seen as ‘likeable’, ‘caring’, and ‘competent’ by a majority of the public. However, a majority also saw him as ‘inexperienced’ and a ‘lightweight’. So if David (Cameron) could come back from such dispiriting personal ratings, perhaps Ed could do.

However, there is a rather large caveat. Ed Miliband is enjoying a preposterously benign political climate for the leader of the opposition. Anaemic economic growth, no rival opposition party to distract from his message, and two targets for political point-scoring – Labour has never had it so good. And yet, they’re a point behind in the polls and heading in the wrong direction. So while Ed’s ratings may be comparable to Dave’s at a similar stage in their political shelf-lives, we should judge the Labour leader’s poor polling performance far more harshly.

Personal ratings of the leader do not determine a party’s prospects at the polls, but they do have a significant impact on how swing voters decide who to plump for at election time.

We must also ask whether Ed Miliband has the political and interpersonal skill-set that David Cameron has shown to be one of his fortes over the past few years. In order for the Labour leader to elevate his personal ratings, and therefore become a credible Prime Minister in the eyes of the voters, he must show that these are part of his political make-up too.