(From Evening Blend)
Is Ed Miliband ready to be Prime Minister? His personal poll ratings suggest not and many in his party remain sceptical. But Labour remains toe-to-toe with the Conservatives in the polls, making a Miliband premiership a real possibility after 7 May.
The FT's George Parker and Jim Pickard have interviewed the Labour leader (£) (http://spectator.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b7034b6517cfdcc8d4d4e60e9&id=63cf0a3944&e=a04a58b87a) to find out why Miliband is still confident he can lead the country, despite the negativity surrounding his leadership. One of the fascinating nuggets in the piece is this one:
'Miliband's Labour critics do not share his confidence. So much so that, last autumn, party grandees gauged whether they could stage a coup by toppling the leader and installing the popular former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson in his place. Miliband denied talk of a coup last November as "nonsense".
'But the FT has learnt that two Labour grandees — Lord Mandelson, the former business secretary, and Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former press chief — took soundings from Johnson to see whether he was prepared to take over. "Alan gave an emphatic No," says one Labour MP. Another senior party figure claimed that at least 40 MPs supported the abortive coup — others claim far more. Johnson, a former postman, has discovered a new and less stressful life as an author.'
Mandelson and Campbell have confirmed these conversations took place but deny they were scheming against Miliband. If this duo did tap up Johnson about any plans to take over — and the number of MPs ready to back them — it shows how deep the unrest goes within the Labour party. Miliband is clearly on a short leash from his party: if this is how they treat him when the party is within touching distance of No.10, their patience will run out as soon as the moment passes.
Rumblings about the party's stance towards business continued today, but Labour has managed a reasonable clear-up operation after Ed Balls' disastrous 'Bill' interview on Tuesday night. MPs have been armed with a long list of business supporters to parrot whenever they go near a microphone or camera, and Tony Blair's former fundraiser Lord Levy told the World at One he didn't think Labour was ignoring business.
The biggest problem for Labour today, though, has been Tristram Hunt's apparent sneer at nuns on Question Time, which he said (http://spectator.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b7034b6517cfdcc8d4d4e60e9&id=174d3c3a8d&e=a04a58b87a) today wasn't meant to cause offence to nuns. Read Damian's furious blog about those comments here. (http://spectator.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=b7034b6517cfdcc8d4d4e60e9&id=445cfa91c4&e=a04a58b87a)
A bigger boost, though, may well be the King's Fund report that criticises the Coalition's reorganisation of the NHS. Though the independent think tank also dismissed Andy Burnham's warnings about the privatisation of the NHS, it was sufficiently damning about Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Act for Ed Miliband to demand that David Cameron 'personally apologise to the British people for betraying their trust, letting them down and damaging our National Health Service'.