When Ed Miliband became Labour Party leader two years ago, the most common grumble was that the party had appointed the wrong brother. Few shared Neil Kinnock’s view that Ed had “the capacity to inspire people”, and most were surprised when he beat his brother by 1.5 per cent to become leader of the opposition.
His time in the role has been a mixed bag. Despite the relative unpopularity of the coalition government, Miliband is still “less respected” than prime minister David Cameron, according to polls. Voters have, until very recently, viewed him as a political lightweight unable to capitalise on the blunders that have plagued the coalition.
And, as petty as it may sound, a large part of his failure to charm voters is down to aesthetics. Despite having surgery on his nose to improve a respiratory condition, his nasally voice puts many off before they even give his policies a chance. His appearance has been likened to a character from Wallace & Gromit and commentators in certain quarters have concluded that he will never win an election while looking and sounding that way.
In recent months, though, Miliband’s popularity has reached a tipping point. After George Osborne announced the details of this year’s Budget, Miliband took the opportunity to show his true political mettle for, arguably, the first time. His response speech was strong and curried favour with many who he had previously left cold. Prior to his Budget speech, his position at the top of the Labour Party was in question. After, whispers started emerging about his suitability as prime minister of the country.
His speech at the Labour Party Conference earlier this month firmly established Ed Miliband as a viable candidate. Delivered without a script, it presented him in a light few had seen him in before: strong, dynamic and straight-talking. Polls have shown that he has experienced what the Americans call a “post-convention bounce”, but despite Labour holding a ten point lead over the Conservatives, his own popularity still lags slightly behind that of David Cameron.
With the coalition announcing a further £10 billion in welfare cuts at the Conservative Party conference, their standing among centrist voters is set to become even more strained. We’re two years away from the next general election. Now’s the time for the man once dubbed “Ed The Red” to make his play for swinging voters and the undecided.
“It was a good speech and it has given him a boost. Labour has said Ed will remain leader for the next general election. However, whether he will be prime minister is a completely different question. There is time...” Burhan Khadbai, University of Manchester
“He’s economically illiterate, so nope, not really.” Jan Hoang Xuan, LSE
“He’s the wrong Miliband, isn’t he? It’s such a shame. There’s no doubt that Britain is in desperate need of a Labour government to rid the country of all this austerity nonsense that’s reversed Gordon Brown’s expertly engineered recovery of 2009-10.” Christine Wilkins, University of Oxford