David Miliband’s retirement from politics signals the departure yet another stalwart from the New Labour era, but will Ed Miliband and Ed Balls be able to successfully negotiate the curtain call.
Despite their attempts to re-re-brand the Labour party as ‘One Nation Labour’, both Balls and Miliband have found it difficult to shake their toxic ties with the New Labour era. Each week the coalition parties remind the two Ed’s of their accountability as part of Gordon Brown’s cabinet. Supporters of the Conservative party, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP are happy to hear the broken record placing ultimate blame for the ongoing economic situation at the door of The Labour Party, however it appears the vital swing voters are less sure. This month saw Labour take the biggest ever recorded lead in YouGov polls at 15 points, whilst average poll ratings from UKPR (UK Polling Report) have Labour with a 10 point lead.
Although, when looking specifically at economic performance the polls return a rather bleak picture for Labour and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Only 26% believe that George Osborne is doing a good job, but when asked who would do a better job with the economy, George Osborne wins with 31% to Ed Balls’ rather embarrassing 25%. The ‘none of the above’ option comfortably beat both candidates with a sizeable 44%. Ed Balls may have proved a great success for frustrating the coalition benches, but it appears his value as candidate for Chancellor of the Exchequer has diminished.
Whilst such polling data is helpful to gauge a generalised feeling from the nation, it is often misleading. Voting intention polls have Labour 10 points ahead, yet undoubtedly the key issue at the next election will be the economy. Therefore the prospective candidates for Chancellor, and the rate of growth in the economy may well be the difference between election victory and heartache. The mid-term local election results are equally misleading. Opposition parties are expected to make huge gains, and anything else is deemed a failure. For the more radical political parties, gains made at local elections are often lost at general elections. It is therefore unlikely that UKIP will achieve the 10% of votes that are currently predicted, and it is equally unlikely that Labour will win with a 110 seat majority.
At close fought elections, mistakes and slip ups are pounced upon and exploited, and can ultimately decide the overall outcome. Therefore David Miliband’s resignation today signals a good step forward for Labour. His announcement has removed all speculation of a return to frontline politics and has put an end to the circus surrounding him and his brother Ed. The Labour PR machine now has one less worry and links to the New Labour governments are slowly disintegrating – however whilst Ed Balls sits alongside Ed Miliband on the front bench, links will be made and aspersions cast. The remaining traces of Labour’s not so popular past may be the unravelling of their 2015 election campaign.