Con-Dem Nation,  Labour Party,  UK Politics

Miliband races ahead as coalition honeymoon ends

David Miliband has been the frontrunner to be Labour leader since the start of the campaign and is now starting to pull well ahead, according to a YouGov poll.

The Evening Standard reports that he is ahead among Labour voters on 29% with his closes rival being Ed Balls on 13%. He is also the favoured choice of Londoners’ for the top job with 22% of support. Diane Abbott is second with 11% while Ed Balls trails in fourth with 3%.

David Miliband is already well ahead in terms of support from MPs and constituency Labour party nominations –he has 107 parties behind him with a week to go. Ed has 84, Andy Burnham has 21, Dianne Abbott has 14 and Ed Balls has just nine.  That all points to David Miliband having the support of the grass roots, who see him as a prime minister in waiting, and enjoying wider public support, which will be a major help in winning trade union membership support in the electoral college when the vote takes place in September.

The news about the success of David Miliband’s campaign is particularly welcome today as more YouGov research points to the honeymoon being over for the coalition.

The research says that “while more people still approve than disapprove” the gap has narrowed sharply in recent weeks as those who were willing to give the coalition the benefit of the doubt, and sit on the fence as don’t knows, have made up their mind as they learn more about the coalition’s plans and its cost cutting agenda.

“Over the past four weeks, the coalition’s approval rating has slipped slowly but remorselessly. Our latest figures report a net rating of plus four (approve 41%, disapprove 37%). In just over two months, the coalition’s rating has declined to levels that were not reached for almost three years under Tony Blair.”

For the Lib Dems the news is much worse. Their commitment to the Con-Dem coalition has cost them dearly. The party’s support is down by a third since the election as those who voted for them realise they have been sold a false bill of goods on the back of its efforts to sell policies such as the rise in VAT.

“The figures for the Liberal Democrats are more striking. Among those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, opinions are divided: just 40% approve of the coalition’s performance, while 36% disapprove. No wonder Lib Dem support has slumped since the coalition was formed. Indeed, of those who voted Lib Dem on May 6, just 46% would vote for the party if an election were held now, while 18% would vote Labour, 9% Conservative and 5% for other parties; 22% are ‘don’t knows’ or ‘won’t votes’. To be sure, the Lib Dems have picked up some support from voters who like their involvement the coalition, but there are too few of these to offset the deserters.”

While the new is bad for the Lid Dems it is much better for Labour. It is gaining ground as feelings among the core Labour base harden towards the coalition. In mid-June almost half of Labour voters declined to condemn the Conservative-led government (14% approved and 39% said don’t know) and now the figures are: approve 6%, disapprove 79%, don’t know 14%.

“Partly this reflects a hardening of the attitudes of long-standing Labour supporters; but it also reflects the fact that Labour has gained ground since the election, as it monopolises the growing protest vote. It is about ‘disapprovers’ switching to Labour, not just Labour voters becoming ‘disapprovers’.”

With a new leader soon to be in place and a re-energised party in opposition Labour will be in a strong position to challenge what is increasingly looking like a fragile coalition.