The General Election is less than a month away and it’s almost impossible to predict the makeup of the next government based on the polls, but in many ways Labour leader Ed Miliband is the real winner so far.
Despite the reds haemorrhaging support in Scotland, where Labour could yet be wiped out, Miliband has exceeded expectations on the campaign trail and is clearly coming across better than Prime Minister David Cameron at present.
The latest YouGov polls have Labour neck-and-neck with the Conservatives, and Miliband has made up ground on the PM’s personal ratings since the start of the campaign.
This wasn’t really supposed to happen, especially after the Tories took the lead in the polls last November. Political watchers thought Miliband a useless leader, scarred from internal Labour party battles, not least with his brother for the leadership five years ago, who wouldn’t stay the course.
Indeed, factions of the party itself attempted to oust the former Energy Secretary from his post in the autumn, with safe-pair-of-hands Alan Johnson mooted as a stop-gap leader.
Miliband has rolled all the punches that have come his way so far in the campaign, including dirty tricks from high-up Tories who claim he stabbed his brother in the back, merely by running in a leadership election, and mad talk in the Daily Mail about his ex-girlfriends.
The kinder economic headwinds were supposed to usher Cameron back towards the direction of number ten Downing Street by now, but unpopular policies, the Bedroom Tax being a prime example, and living standards only just starting to improve for ordinary workers has seen the Tories stall at around 34% in the opinion polls.
Cameron and co may do enough during the rest of the campaign to come out with the highest seats, priced up at 1/2 with bwin at present, but it seems certain Miliband will avoid the kind of car crash visited on Michael Foot’s Labour in the 1983 General Election, or even the disappointing result under Neil Kinnock four years later.
It feels more like 1974 or 1992 for Labour this time round. In the former, they claimed 301 seats and took control, if not full power, over the legislative agenda through deals and another election later in the year, when Harold Wilson scraped a majority.
Miliband won’t get near that mark if the SNP does half as well as expected, but having peeled off votes from disaffected swing voters unhappy with the government in England and Wales, somewhere around their current projection of around 270 seats, one less than Kinnock claimed in 1992, plus five or ten more from the Nats looks about right.
With that in mind, back Labour to win over 269.5 seats at 17/20 with bwin.