As Ed Miliband nears the end of his first year as Labour leader, his position is already at threat. A lack of policies, struggles in the parliamentary arena, and the shadow of his older brother, have led to questions over his future.
Going into the leadership contest Ed was always the underdog, considered the second choice behind his heavily favoured brother David. It was only with the much criticised support of trade unions that Ed won the race by just 1.3%.
The manner of victory, without the majority of support from those within his party, sparked controversy before he even took up the position. Comparisons with brother David, who has recently called for unity within the party, have refused to disappear.
Despite this he did make a positive start. Labour overtook the Conservatives in opinion polls, with the party achieving its highest rating since 2002.
However, Miliband’s year has not passed without a series of high profile gaffs and problems within his cabinet.
His appointment of Alan Johnson over Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor, without Johnson having any significant economic experience, was widely questioned. The appointment sparked more trouble when Johnson stepped down for personal reasons in January, forcing Miliband into an early cabinet reshuffle with Balls replacing Johnson.
The debacle is cited as a significant error of judgement from Miliband. One which many feel his brother would have avoided.
Ed promised a new direction for Labour when he took over as leader. Expressing a desire to move beyond the decade of Blairism, Brownism, and a party divided. As yet he has failed introduce these changes, and David Cameron continually reminds him so.
It is during his battles with the Prime Minister that Miliband is looking most vulnerable.
He has lacked the ability to attack the government, especially over such controversial policies as budget cuts, NHS reform and most recently sentencing.
Miliband is continually defenceless to counters from the government. He strikes one blow to criticise, but Cameron, a master in Prime Ministers Questions, hits back just as hard.
It is in this arena that comparisons with his brother, widely regarded as the better talker, are made.
But Ed’s ability as an orator is only one issue during PMQs. Just as significant is his failure to offer any significant alternative to the coalition plans.
David Cameron has perfected his response to a tee: What is the Labour alternative?
As of right now there appears to be none.
Although Ed has only been in the job for eight months, he must begin to impose himself on his party and during his debates with the coalition. Comparisons are now being made with the struggles faced by Iain Duncan Smith during his tenure as Conservative leader from 2001-2003.
IDS was continually embarrassed by Tony Blair during PMQs, he provided little alternative to Labour policies, and ultimately lost the support of his party.
At times Miliband has also struck a resemblance to a young William Hague in opposition.
Miliband’s speech at the March for the Alternative, in which he compared the plight of students to anti-apartheid demonstrations and the American civil rights movement, was a glaring misjudgement. It is a mistake which ranks alongside Hague’s appearance as a baseball cap wearing new breed.
Although Ed Miliband has not yet hit the lows of IDS and Hague, he is not yet unelectable. He must improve in the coming year.
Labour needs to be united under a set of policies defined by their leader. They must offer an alternative to the coalition and not be influenced by the trade unions who are considered to have won Miliband the job.
The public must be given the chance to vote for something different.
It is only when, and more importantly if, this happens, that speculation of unrest within Labour can be silenced.
Ed must show that he can be a strong leader. Although he still has time before the knife will fall, the pressure is beginning to grow.
The Ticking Clock Begins
With hindsight, was Ed Miliband the right choice as Labour leader?
by Jared Lynn (14 June 2011)