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Conference Calling

The Populus survey for today’s Times makes devastating reading for Ed Miliband and Labour.

Two thirds of the public say he isn’t Prime Ministerial material.

Worse still, half of his own Labour Party supporters agree.

So party conference could not come a moment too soon for Mr Miliband.

If he ever needed a platform to build his brand, it is now.

Rick Nye at Populus gave a fascinating insight into the political landscape in a Portland seminar this morning.

This is the first time that many of us conference veterans can remember when the three main party leaders are not facing a challenge to their title.

The summer of hackgate and looting hasn’t done much to shift the leaders’ poll positions and we go into the season with Labour slightly ahead.

It’s worth pointing out that Mr Miliband has a much better chance of rebuilding his party than did William Hague in 1997.

Then, the Tories had a fresh injection of just 20 new MPs out of 165. Yes, just 165 Conservative MPs remained when Tony Blair swept to power.

It’s the new intake which drives change and helps make a party feel fresh and relevant.

Mr Miliband has 60+ new MPs in his ranks and many are fizzing with ideas and determination.

David Cameron remains in a strong position as Prime Minister.

Libya, a job not quite finished, was a gamble on the world stage worth taking.

The PM acted when no others would.

No wonder the Populus snapshot of voters’ views about him includes the words “determined”, “up to the job”, “stands up for Britain”.

The same cannot be said for Nick Clegg and the Labour leader, both of whom are said by the Populus survey to be “out of their depth”, “weak” or “indecisive”.

The Tories are wooing women as they fathom ways of winning a clear majority at the next election.

Hence the ringfencing of the Aid budget.  Private polling shows this is hugely popular amongst women voters.

But the PM has internal management problems to take care of.

Cabinet ministers moan privately that the Cameron/Clegg axis is stifling their attempts to be proper Tories.

Witness the Human Rights Act.

Ministers point out they are unable to deliver on policy in areas like law and order and welfare because of the HRA.

I remember Mr Cameron – in Opposition – promising me that tearing up the Act would be the first act of a Conservative government.

Yet Mr Clegg has insisted the HRA stays.

The key thing to note is here just how close Clegg and Cameron remain, running the government with George Osborne and Danny Alexander.

The “quad” remains king.

Boundary changes will mean chaos and confusion and a lot of anger in the Tory ranks.

Big guns must fight for new seats. Some will accept Peerages.

Others will be stripped of dignity.

Newcomers – with energy and fresh ideas – may be shoved aside.

And the new intake of Eurosceptics are growing in boldness and strength.

They are being backed to the hilt by most in the Cabinet and almost certainly will help reshape Britain’s tortured relationship with Brussels.

Yet Mr Cameron is a big picture politician. He won’t be too alarmed by the grumbling in his own party.

Tories know he’s a winner and with the Populus poll fresh in their minds, they’ll march off to Manchester to plan victory in May 2015.

Written By

George Pascoe-Watson