How’s the new leader getting on with the job?
Today marks Ed Milibandâ€™s 100th day as Labour Leader. How do we think he is getting on? I am sure we all have a view. Returning from a break I have come to the conclusion that, despite a couple of presentational mistakes, Ed is actually doing quite well. Labour are on the right course. But, in the first 100 days it has also become clear how hard his task is. He faces some unique problems.
Leader of the opposition is always a difficult job. Itâ€™s a virtually powerless position, but one that carries a huge weight of expectation.
The problem for Ed is that expectations have rarely been higher and the position he inherited appears stronger than it actually is. A dangerous cocktail.
As the opposition to government cuts gathers momentum, the pressure on Ed to defeat the coalition will grow. However, so long as the coalition remains intact there is little he can do. If he was facing a majority government, expectations would be low. But in a hung parliament the pressure will not go away. And what should his strategy be? There is no copy book. No-one in British politics knows how to handle a coalition.
In the meantime, Ed has to repair the Labour party. Labour scored under 30% of the vote at the general election. Fewer people voted Labour than at any time since 1983. Itâ€™s a weak position, obscured by the partyâ€™s strength in the Commons and the memory of office. Getting the party to face up to this and reach out again to voters is a huge task.
Ed is performing well because he has recognised the depth of these problems and is using the strengths he retains to good effect. He successfully marshalled his large parliamentary party in the recent tuition fees debate and put the coalition under serious pressure. Under Ed, Labour is already an effective parliamentary opposition. It took the Tories 8 years.
In the first 100 days, Ed has rightly avoided falling into the opposition premature policy trap. But at the same time, the government have been left lots of space to frame the economic debate. As the governmentâ€™s cuts start to hurt, Labour must dispel the governmentâ€™s preferred line that the pain has nothing to do with them. Ed has to win this battle. As such, the first 100 days have been a phoney war. The defining moments for his leadership lie in the year ahead.
Jonathan, a Labour activist from West Sussex, contributes a weekly PB column