Do you think Ed Miliband is prime minister material?
With a general election looming, voters have some big decisions to make, and while we only vote for our local MP, thoughts of who we're going to end up with as prime minister have a big effect on our decisions.
Political leaders therefore need to display many of the traits we'd want from leaders in other walks of life, such as intelligence, empathy, clear values and strong beliefs. But the scrutiny on them is much greater in the world of frontline politics, so if a party leader is perceived to be falling short in any way, they're not just going to get a hard time from their subordinates – they'll be hammered by the media as well.
This can seriously harm their public standing, as our opinions of political leaders are largely based on what we see in the press and on TV. Ed Miliband knows this better than most, as he's been lagging behind the prime minister in polls on their respective leadership qualities for much of the current parliament.
The Labour leader has faced criticism from some for not being charismatic enough to engage with the masses, while others have branded him simply as weird. On top of this, some critics argue he's not done enough to push key policy issues and show the public what he and a future Labour government would be all about. And to add insult to injury, he's been routinely mocked for his appearance, with many comparing him unfavourably with Wallace of Wallace and Gromit fame.
Miliband has less than three months to stem the tide and prove he has the skills and attributes that are needed to run the country. Having these capabilities and convincing the public of this are two very different things, but both are vitally important if he seriously wants to win the election.
Some might look towards the fact that he stood against his own brother to secure the Labour leadership as proof that he has great belief in his abilities, a willingness to take tough decisions, and a clear view of where he wants to take the party. Indeed, he admitted in a recent interview with the Financial Times that he was "always pretty much convinced I was going to win", despite David Miliband being the favourite in many people's eyes.
The FT interview was actually quite revealing about where he sees himself right now and what qualities he believes make him a prime minister in waiting.
For instance, Miliband said he believes leaders of the Opposition "always have a battle" in the run-up to a general election. Furthermore, he said people might have scoffed four-and-a-half years ago if they were told Labour would be in with a chance of regaining power at the next election. Nevertheless, Miliband believes the 2015 election is genuinely "ours to win".
“I actually think I’ve put the party in the right place to win the election and the right place to govern the country,” he commented.
"This is an economy which isn’t working for most people. It’s a strategy of reaching out to people right across the country in all parts of the United Kingdom, so I totally reject the idea that somehow this is about a narrow section of the electorate – quite the contrary.”
Miliband also stresses that much of the mudslinging from some newspapers wouldn't be happening if Labour was miles behind in the opinion polls. Indeed, he is convinced much of the band publicity stems from the fact "they fear I'm going to win".
The fact that David Cameron appears reluctant to take part in TV debates ahead of the election is proof in some people's eyes that the Labour leader is right.
Last time, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was a relative unknown, but the TV debates triggered so-called Cleggmania and saw him emerge from the election as deputy prime minister. Could a good performance on television have a similar effect on Miliband? Possibly.
Former Conservative chairman Lord Patten certainly believes so, as he has admitted to being worried about Miliband coming across "a lot better than the press has said he is", as "he's a highly intelligent guy, a good debater".
Miliband is perhaps one of the best examples of how emotional intelligence is a vital attribute for a leader. Much of his trouble has stemmed from his apparent inability to relate and engage with others and inspire them into believing his message. But if he manages to overcome this hurdle in time for the election, he could find himself being handed the keys to Number 10.
- Published: August 12th, 2016
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