Lord Ashcroft – the tory Millionaire is delighting in his self appointed role as chief labour pollster and strategist.
But his latest poll/focus group findings is not good news for Ed – the main reaction of focus groups to seeing his photo is to laugh.
The most worrying thing for Labour is that the more people see of their leader, the worse his approval ratings become. They are comparable to those of William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith at the beginnings of their doomed leaderships of the Tory Party. He’s miles adrift from the approval that voters gave to new leaders who went on to be prime ministers such as Cameron and Blair.
Ed has been one of the thinkers. He and David got communitarianism but the red tories stole the clothes of blue labour and Milliband has failed to take put in the public mind a distinctive position.
Putting aside for one moment the utter inability of Labour to dump failing leaders is there an alternative?
Ed Balls despite his pugnaciousness is too associated with Brown.
The leader of the opposition does not need to be from the second largest party. Coalition realities and stitch ups in Europe and globally mean that on rare occasion the best candidature for prime minister can arise from smaller parties. The Prime Minister of Iraq is an example. For years too in France the Guallists were not the largest party on the right but sometimes offered the strongest candidate for president.
Labour too face an uphill struggle if the SNP achieve a breakthrough at Westminster of the scale of the recent assembly elections. Labour would then require a landslide to achieve a majority and would probably be forced into some form of coalition. The SNP could then play the sort of decisive role that irish nationalist did a century ago.
Alex Salmond is the most successful politician of the left in modern times. He has also managed to achieve traditional social democratic goals -such as abolishing tuition fees and prescription charges, that are popular and distinctive.
Salmond has also had the political foresight to think one move ahead of his opponents – such as proposing a ‘third question’ on the ballot for independence – proposing fiscal independence. Replacing hard line ‘Pur et dur’ nationalism for shorter term advances.
Of course the tribalism of many labour politicians make this unlikley, although those who most firmly held this haave now suffered electoral oblivian.
Salmond is and would be a convincing figure on the world stage; in return for full fiscal independence for Scotland Labour could offer him control of defence and foreign affairs and Labour could define its own domestic agenda for England. This would neatly neuter the West Lothian question. After all england has often turned to non englishmen to gird its defence and been quite open about it – like Smuts in the first world war (bearly a decade after fighting England in the Boer war) and Parks in the Second world war. All you need is the right kind of Scotsman.