If you’ve at least been on twitter or on various political sites today, you will no doubt by now have read about the latest YouGov poll that sees Ken moving ahead of Boris by the narrowest of margins. Now anyone would think that such a shift in opinion would have Boris quaking in his boots and I’m sure he is worried about losing his job this May, but I have a feeling that a loss would not be all doom and gloom for Boris. Politically speaking anyway.
In the event of a Hung Parliament, in 2015, where the Conservatives end up behind Labour on vote share and seat share I imagine it is likely that David Cameron would step aside. I do not see him as a figure who would grasp on to power at all costs in the way Gordon Brown was willing to in 2010. I imagine he would be more than happy to protect a record that has proved popular amongst Conservatives, but not so much amongst the left-wing press and the anti-Tory brigade (I mean would he have ever managed to have pleased them?). In September 2011, Toby Young raised a very good point on this very issue that if Cameron had lost then the likelihood of Osborne becoming leader would be scuppered by the fact that he would also be very much accountable for the Tory defeat. This, I believe, provides a perfect opportunity for Boris. If he loses in May then I imagine it would take a lot to keep him from the Political scene and a likely stand in 2015 for Parliament would be a surprise to no one. He is loved by his party and has proved popular with many Londoners, which is why it has been so hard for Ken to really mount any sort of campaign against him. I think Boris, himself, feels he is destined to Govern this country and that to rule him out in doing so would be very foolish.
So what can we expect come May? If Boris wins he keeps his job and leads us into the Olympics and hopefully more prosperous times for London (or so they’d hope). If he loses? Then there is a bloody good chance his leadership campaign begins day one after his defeat. Watch this space. The Boris bike route may well change course and I imagine its headed straight for Number 10.
It would be very easy for me to revel in Ed Miliband’s unpopular leadership of his party and to be as opportunistic as possible at the revelation of his unpopularity amongst party supporters, but such temptations must be resisted. For whilst it makes Government that little bit easier knowing that the main opposition leader poses no threat to the party it may lead us into an arena of complacency and arrogance, something that may prove very dangerous. I believe strongly that every Government, no matter how supportive you are of them, should always have the strongest possible opposition. It not only puts the Government on the backfoot more, but also allows the thorough and credible scrutiny that Government policy always needs. At the moment Labour simply do not offer that. There is a wealth of talent in the Shadow Cabinet (I shall cite Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna and Hilary Benn to name a few) but such wealth is not translated through its leadership and certainly not those who speak most consistently on economic matters (need I say anymore on that matter?).
Electing Ed Miliband as leader of the party was seen, by many, as an attempted lurch to the left which was backed up by great enthusiasm and support from the Unions. Although this was the case in the sense that Ed was the Union candidate, it was certainly no lurch to the left. If anything such a lurch would, deep down, have ignited a lot of excitement in Labour activists. Many still miss the days of extreme anti-Capitalist protest which made the differences between themselves and the Tories much clearer. It is, I believe, the lack of direction and purpose that has really disenfranchised Labour voters and members. We one day see Ed being branded “left wing” by David Cameron over his reluctance to condemn the Public Sector strikes, whilst recently we have seen attempts to align Labour as the party set to tackle the “evil” of benefit scroungers; a shift that would no doubt make Labour voters wince whilst making the public roll their eyes at such blatant tactics from a party associated with the culture they look to condemn. Such a lack of direction is also assisted by what can only be described as an identity crisis for Ed Miliband as the voters simply do not know who he is and what he stands for. Something tells me that not even a movie akin to the one used to promote the image and character of Neil Kinnock prior to the 1987 election. He is, quite simply, a lost cause for the Labour party.
Back to my original point, it is quite simply not good enough for the Labour party, or the Coalition, for Ed Miliband to remain in his post. There is no strong challenge coming from Ed and he is choosing to embrace populist soundbites and bandwagon jumping in favour of putting together an opposition credible enough to shadow this Government. As I have mentioned, the talent is certainly there, but for it to be utilised there needs to be a leader capable of such a challenge. That is not to say the challenge is a simple one. You only need to look at how William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard all faired in their years as Conservative party leaders. But even William Hague was, at least, seen to be a strong opponent to the Blair government who was always a very well composed debater and one who, if anything, was let down by a divided Tory party. But Ed’s problem is not the party, it is himself. So if he cares about his party and if he cares about holding the Government to account he seriously needs to consider either upping his game completely or re-evaluating his position within the Labour party. The Coalition needs a strong opposition and it just isn’t there.