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Leadership tremors in Labour as UK poll draws near

world Updated: Nov 09, 2014 18:35 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
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Six months before the May 2015 general elections, the Labour party has been rattled by increasing support for a change of leadership after popular perception reflected in opinion polls continues to indicate less confidence in Ed Miliband.

Miliband, who became the leader of the party in 2010 after Gordon Brown resigned as prime minister and leader of the party after Labour’s defeat in the general elections, successfully contested against his more popular brother, David Miliband.

But since then, there have been rumblings in the party over Ed Miliband’s ability to lead the part to victory in the 2015 elections, and his performances in public and during the high-profile weekly spats with Prime Minister David Cameron during Question Time in parliament did nothing to improve his ratings.

Following days of reports of growing unease within the party, The Observer and The Sunday Times reported at length about the crisis-in-making, and indicated that Alan Johnson was the most acceptable leader if he chose to contest the leadership.

As Miliband last week dismissed reports of party plots against him as ‘nonsense’, questions were being raised whether Labour party rules permitted a leadership contest so close to elections.

A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times found that only 34% of people who voted Labour at the last general election believe that Miliband is up to the job of prime minister, compared with 51% a month ago. Forty-two per cent say he is not up to the job, a sharp rise from 28% a month ago.

Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, became the most senior party figure to criticise Miliband’s plans for a mansion tax, and told the Sunday paper that the “general election is too close to call”, adding that Miliband “needs to show” he is prime ministerial material.

“People want leadership. Yes, there are difficulties. But you’ve got to show that you have answers or at least you have an understanding of how you answer the questions. It is tone. When they see you on the telly, do they say, ‘Is this something I can identify with? Are they talking my kind of language?’ ”

Three senior Labour MPs reportedly contacted The Observer on Saturday to confirm that the frontbenchers were ready to strike against Miliband.

“The Observer understands that senior MPs have been taking soundings through the last week about the prospect of removing Miliband just six months before the 2015 general election”, the paper reported.

It added: “The ringleaders of the prospective coup have collected 20 names of frontbench colleagues – about one-fifth of shadow ministers – who expressed concern at the seriousness of the party’s plight and would act if Johnson offered any encouragement. They believe others would also support the move”.