So which leader of a major political party now routinely loses seats with a five figure majority?
David Cameron was obliterated at the Clacton by-election last month and faces a similar drubbing in Rochester on November 20, a seat that he and his henchmen branded a Tory El Alamein only a few weeks ago but which has now been quietly abandoned to the advancing Ukip hordes. More than 100 Tory Mps have defied party bosses and refused to campaign in a lost cause.
But it is not Cameron who is deep political trouble today.
That fate belongs to Ed Miliband, now fighting desperately to hold onto his job as Labour leader. As one of my most experienced Labour insiders told me last night, “For the first time, I’m not sure he will get to the line”.
Not that Labour has any history of knifing its leaders. That dubious reputation rests with the Conservatives.
The hapless Michael Foot was left in peace spectacularly to lose the 1983 election. Neil Kinnock, branded the Welsh windbag by the tabloids, got to fight and be destroyed in two elections. True, Tony Blair was forced out by Gordon Brown and his heavies in 2007 only for the “Prime Mentalist” to crash out to a Foot-like result (29 per cent of the vote) in 2010. Now Miliband’s poll rating is down to these kind of dreadful numbers.
The case against Miliband is growing, prompting Labour Mps to complain to their parliamentary shop stewards that he is on course for an avoidable defeat. Miliband and his dwindling band of loyalists are being forced to issue panicky denials that anything is amiss, much like the football chairman issuing the legendary vote of confidence in the manager destined for an early exit. Here is just some of the case for the prosecution.
*Labour’s poll rating has slumped below 30 per cent, well short of the meagre 35 per cent Miliband calculates will give him victory.
*Only 19 per cent of the public think Miliband is up to the job of being Prime Minister, compared to 50 per cent for Cameron. Six months before the last election, even Brown scored 28 per cent on this question.
*Labour’s Scottish leader Johann Lamont has quit in disgust at Miliband’s London operation amid a poll suggesting that Labour would lose all but four of its current 41 seats north of the border.
*Miliband’s confidence is said to be in tatters after his disastrous conference speech in which he “forgot” to mention the two biggest issues facing the country – the deficit and immigration.
*The New Statesman, the house journal of the Left, normally uber-loyal, and one of the few national publications to back Red Ed for leader in 2010, has turned on him, branding him an “old-style Hampstead socialist” and “quasi Marxist”.
*The left-wing Fabian Society has calculated that under Miliband Labour has sunk below rock-bottom, claiming that among diehard Labour voters who stuck with the party during the Brown meltdown, it has still slipped back four percentage points.
*Large chunks of Labour’s working class core vote are breaking off, many switching to the Farage insurgency.
Yet the case against Miliband is even more damning than this. All the above criticisms are essentially political. But, as one observer said of Ed yesterday, the fundamental objection to him is now cultural rather than political. This is a man so weird that he cannot eat a bacon sandwich competently or pass by a 14-year-old Romanian beggar. Ed, always the awkward North London geek and policy wonk, has become a walking, talking figure of fun, guaranteed to raise a laugh in any stand-up comedian’s act merely at the mention of his name.
Yet it is Cameron who has lost a 12,000 majority seat in Clacton and who will kiss good-bye to another 10,000 vote cushion in Rochester and Strood. Ukip ran Labour desperately close in the Heywood and Middleton by-election, but Labour’s share of the vote actually went up in the seat, while the Tory vote more than halved and the Lib Dems virtually fell off the map.
Dave must be praying Ed survives. Without the socially inept Labour leader, the PM would be in far worse straits.