Knives out for Miliband (again) despite poll improvement
Labour bolstered its poll performance this month to re-establish it's pre-2014 lead over the Tories, despite a relentless wave of damning coverage.
Ed Miliband's leadership was being questioned across the press today, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, with unnamed Labour sources speaking out against the leader.
But analysis of the party's polling showed it was actually gradually re-building its lead over the Conservatives.
An Opinium poll in the Observer showed the party was maintaining its four-point lead over the Tories, by 35% to 31%, with Ukip on 17% and the Liberal Democrats on seven per cent.
More reassuringly for Labour HQ, YouGov's monthly averages for the past year plus an average of the last 15 polls for June showed the party was increasing the lead.
The past year saw a decline in Labour's lead from 39% last year to 36% in May, but June has seen a small but significant improvement in the party's fortune together with a drop in Tory support.
Today's YouGov poll puts Labour on 38%, six points ahead of the Tories on 32%. Ukip is on 14% and the Lib Dems on eight per cent.
The resilience of Labour's polling scores have done little to discourage tabloid and broadsheet questions about Miliband's leadership, however.
David Blunkett's resignation brings the total number of Labour MPs standing down at the next election at 28, almost 11% of the parliamentary party. In contrast, just 15 Tories have announced their retirement, alongside eight Lib Dem MPs.
Blunkett warned Labour could be out of power for 15 years if it fails to win the election.
"I think we would be in the wilderness for as much as 15 years because all the changes that the Conservative majority government would bring in would actually not be about fairness or equity or even sharing power, it would be about excluding the Labour party," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Meanwhile, Labour MP and former minister John Denham warned Labour was losing contact with working class voters who "don't believe they are in any story that Labour is telling about the future of this country", accoridng to the Sunday Times.
"They can list lots of other people that they think are in Labour's story, but not them," he reportedly said.
"And it's not a matter of having a policy for this or for that, but actually including them legitimately in the story and saying: 'You are part of the people that we're here for'.
"If they're not part of our story I don't know what the Labour party is for."
Miliband's personal ratings remain dismal. Ipsos Mori found that 49% of voters think he should be replaced, as do 43% of Labour voters. That compares to 44% who thought the same for Nick Clegg and 27% for David Cameron.
A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showed just 11% of respondents thought Miliband was a strong leader, 21% thought he was up to the job of being prime minister and just 25% thought he was in touch with ordinary people.
The last fact is particularly galling given the perception of 'being in touch with ordinary people' is one of Labour's main advantages against the Tories.
Some worry the media furore over Miliband's perceived personal failings have made it impossible for him to get his message out on other matters.
In an interview with the Observer, former leader Neil Kinnock pinned the blame on the "vindictiveness" of the press.
"It won't stop him; his genuine strengths of thought, action and toughness will get through and help to win victory," he said.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna went on the Andrew Marr programme to praise him as man of deep beliefs.
"We are not playing some game of Celebrity Big Brother," he said.
"We are talking about big issues that are affecting all of our different communities – how are we going to pay our way in the world, how are we going to ensure that everybody can achieve their dreams and realise their aspirations?
"If Ed is guilty of focusing on the issues that people really care about and taking a serious, deep, hard long look at what needs to happen in our economy to change it, then fine.
"Because that is what he is seriously focused on."