Published on 11 Aug 2013 Sections ,

Ed Miliband criticised for Labour’s ‘silent summer’

Ed Miliband faces criticism for Labour’s “summer silence” – but is this just backbench agitation or a sign of serious unrest within the party ranks?

Ed Miliband faces criticism for a lack of attacks on the government over the summer (picture: Getty)

Former whip Graham Stringer has complained about the “deafening silence” coming from the Labour Party in the parliamentary summer recess – “traditionally a ripe time for the opposition to attack the government.”

I think the party is genuinely worried about the lack of activity in the shadow cabinet. Graham Stringer

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Stringer said there was no challenge to Mr Miliband’s leadership, but that there was a “real worry”.

He said: “The real worry is the almost deafening silence there has been from the shadow cabinet in a time of the year which is traditionally a ripe time for the opposition to attack the government.

I think there’s definitely a need to shout louder. Andy Burnham

“While the government are on their holidays and thinking about other things, the opposition has always used that as a way to put policies into the public’s mind and to have a go at anywhere the government has failed.

“I think the party is genuinely worried about the lack of activity in the shadow cabinet.”

‘Stop whinging’

Responding to signs of disgruntlement, another backbench MP, John Mann, said on Twitter on Sunday that Labour members need to “stop whinging”, and called for “iron discipline” from the party.

However, it is not just the backbenches where there are calls for change. Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham told the Guardian: “I think there’s definitely a need to shout louder, and speak in a way that captures how people are feeling and thinking.

“There’s definitely a need to put our cards on the table.”

Whip Jon Ashworth insisted Labour was attacking the government but agreed the party needed to work harder, and could use the autumn conference to set out the “direction of travel” ahead of the 2015 general election.

There are reports that Mr Miliband may employ some “iron discipline” of his own, with a reshuffle of his cabinet ahead of the autumn conference.

Polling battle

Any changes to the party’s “direction of travel” will no doubt be party influenced by how the party is polling – and the picture is currently a little mixed.

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Looking at the summer recess period, the lack of “shouting” from Labour does not seem to have done the party any harm (see graph, above). Since recess began, on 18 July, Labour has increased its lead over the Conservatives from five percent to eight per cent, according to YouGov.

Over the same period the Liberal Democrats and Ukip have been battling for third place, with Nigel Farage’s party generally coming out on top. In the latest poll, Ukip was one percent better off than the LibDems.

ComRes polls for the Independent, and Sunday Mirror, suggest that up until the summer, Labour was losing its lead. According to its voting intention figures, Labour had just a 3 per cent lead over the Conservatives at 30 July, compared with a 6 per cent lead on 19 May.

Ipsos Mori telephone polls since the start of the give Labour an 11 per cent lead as of mid July, compared with a 13 per cent lead at the start of the year.

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