Imaginary Labour leadership plot causes a flap

What Labour backbenchers thought was the “stench of Ed Miliband’s failure” turns out to have been “that of their own insecurity”, says Mary Riddell in The Daily Telegraph.

The “plot that never was” to overthrow him as leader – Sunday headlines screamed his party was ready to revolt, only to be met with firm denials and declarations of support – won’t have done them any favours.

It’s true Miliband bears some responsibility. When a leader has a hugely negative approval rating, and only 21% of voters think he is doing well, “something has gone badly wrong”.

So it’s “obviously in the party’s collective interest to get rid of him”, says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. “Almost anybody else would improve [its] fortunes.” Yet it’s too risky for any individual to take it on.

Some in the Shadow Cabinet may have Labour leadership ambitions, but they are for later, agrees Steve Richards in The Independent. “In the immediate future, they want to be a cabinet minister, quite an ambition in itself.”

Just as I have not seen any convincing sign that leads to a new leader before the election, so I have not heard of an alternative policy that would magically propel Labour towards a decisive victory. That’s because there isn’t one, adds Matthew Parris in The Times.

The problem isn’t Miliband, it’s the product: a “left-of-centre political party, financed by a withering tenth-century trade-union movement, in an anxious age of financial austerity, and near-universal public distrust of the efficacy of government spending”.

Nobody can “lead a 21st-century Labour Party well, because there isn’t anywhere for it to go”. An offer to divide a “shrunken cake more evenly” is likely to unsettle more voters than it will attract, and the idea of abandoning capitalism to “restructure our economy along interventionist, socialist lines” is a bold narrative but not a vote-winner.

So it’s not Ed’s fault that Labour is going into an election with “an eclectic list of mostly minor policies that don’t add up to the ‘compelling narrative’ critics keep demanding”. He doesn’t have one; nor, apparently, does anyone else.

The refusal of Labour to discuss the deficit and the state’s £1bn-a-week interest bill doesn’t inspire confidence, says Dominic Lawson in The Daily Mail. The public may not like the Tories, but “most understand that the money… has run out”.

Labour’s lack of “poise and solidity in everything from its policies to its comportment” is a major problem, because an election puts the “burden of proof on the challengers”, says Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times.

“Flapping around because of a largely imaginary manoeuvre against the leader only invites voters to wonder what the party would be like in a national crisis. Nothing about Labour’s behaviour over the past week augurs well.”



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