A new poll by Populus for the Daily Politics is out today, with some interesting rankings for the four UK party leaders. (Which in a UK context includes Nigel Farage, despite his representing a party without a single MP while there are seven other parties at Westminster who do have seats.)
As you can see, UK respondents were asked to identify the three main qualities they associated with each leader, from a list of positive and negative ones. It’s fair to say none comes out covered in glory – fewer than one in five people think the UK’s Prime Minister is “competent”, for example. But the balance is striking.
From the lists of the respective top-10 answers above, we’ve done a quick and dirty bit of arithmetic measuring each man’s admirable qualities against their bad ones. So “principled” scored plus points, while “indecisive” scored minus points.
(We’ve counted “weird” as a negative for the purposes of the feature, although all of our favourite people are at least quite weird.)
These are the results:
DAVID CAMERON: positive 85 negative 109 overall -24
NIGEL FARAGE: positive 50 negative 116 overall -66
ED MILIBAND: positive 23 negative 133 overall -110
NICK CLEGG: positive 33 negative 144 overall -111
That all four are well into the red is no great shock – people don’t like politicians.
But for Miliband – with none of the responsibilities or guilt of power – to have barely snuck in a single point ahead of Nick Clegg, and to have actually scored substantially lower for positive qualities, must make horrendous reading not only for Labour voters, but for those who are pinning a No vote in the independence referendum on the promise of a Labour government at Westminster making everything fine.
We’ve been pointing out for months on end that Labour isn’t going to win in 2015, of course, for all manner of reasons. But the key one, overriding all others, is that the British public simply can’t abide Ed Miliband. And when your leader is less popular than one of a party with no MPs, and straining to be marginally more beloved than Nick Clegg, you just don’t win elections.
Even if people like your policies, if they don’t trust you to be able to execute them they won’t vote for you. They might think their Prime Minister is “arrogant”, “smug” and “out of touch”, but they’d rather put up with such relatively inconsequential flaws than entrust their country to one who’s “weak”, “indecisive” and “out of his depth” – three of the top five responses for Miliband, none of which appear in Cameron’s top 10.
When an opposition leader who hasn’t had to do anything unpopular or make any difficult decisions can’t even out-rate the PM on “principled”, his party has a catastrophe on its hands. And so does anyone planning to vote No in September in the belief that UK Labour will ride to their rescue.