Labour's morale problem

Ed Miliband Image copyright Getty Images

So what is up with Labour?

Well, here at Westminster we have a technical term for it: the party is having a wobble.

There seems to be no organised, well-supported plot to get rid of Ed Miliband. There seems to be no hard evidence that a letter is doing the rounds demanding his resignation.

But there are many Labour MPs who are deeply worried about the state of their party and at least some who think Mr Miliband should stand down.

And their gloom has deepened in recent weeks. They have seen Labour dipping in the opinion polls, one suggesting the party's support has dropped to 29% - exactly what it got at the last election, its second-worst result in history.

Self-doubt

They have seen other polls suggesting Labour could lose many MPs in its traditional powerbase in Scotland. They see in their own constituencies support seeping to UKIP and the Green Party and those in marginal seats are suddenly getting the jitters. They see their own leader perform badly at an uninspiring party conference and struggle to get a clear message across to the electorate.

They appear depressed by Mr Miliband's minimalist reshuffle this week and grumble about the way his private office works. And they have no great confidence that anything is going to change. Six months out from a general election this is not the place they want to be.

But note this: Labour MPs have been remarkably self-disciplined since losing the last election. It is perhaps surprising that it has taken this long for the wobbles to break out. And Labour does not have a monopoly on this kind of self-doubt. Many Conservative and Lib Dem MPs are equally unhappy with their leaders and the direction their parties are heading.

Election footing

But senior Labour figures close to Mr Miliband accept they have a problem. One told me there is "real concern" within the party. Some members of the Shadow Cabinet want Mr Miliband to share the burden of leadership with them, so the focus is on Labour as a team rather than Mr Miliband as an individual.

Many MPs say they want more direction and vision. Some want an aspirational message they can sell in the south of England. Some want an anti-austerity message they can sell to traditional supporters. Others just want a change of gear so the party can get onto an election footing.

Either way, Mr Miliband has what the military call a morale problem. And it is one he will want to fix fast.

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