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OPINION - Where the Ed Miliband comparison ends for Sir Keir Starmer

If you look at the numbers for the Labour Party in isolation, you might not expect them to lead the Conservatives by 20 points. In many ways the figures are strikingly similar to those seen under Ed Miliband’s leadership before Labour convincingly lost the 2015 election.

Today, 51 per cent of the public are dissatisfied with the job Sir Keir Starmer is doing as Labour leader, with 29 satisfied. His net score of -22 is virtually identical to Miliband’s -19 going into that election. On the party itself, fewer Britons think the Labour Party today understands the problems facing Britain (46 per cent) than under Miliband in 2015 (52 per cent).

Meanwhile, despite nine in 10 telling us that Britain needs a new team of leaders, the public are divided on whether Labour is ready for government.

Of course, elections are about choices and Starmer’s Labour faces a very different Conservative Party to the one Miliband faced in 2015. Today, 69 per cent disagree the Conservative government is competent. Under David Cameron in April 2015, more thought the government was competent (46 per cent) than not (40). In March 2015, 56 per cent thought the government was doing a good job managing the economy whereas in July this year 69 per cent thought Rishi Sunak’s government was doing a bad job.

Clearly Starmer’s Labour face a much more unpopular Conservative government than Miliband did. But it would be unfair to suggest Labour is simply winning by default. The public might be divided on whether Labour is ready for government today but in February 2015, 52 per cent disagreed Labour was ready.

Cameron led Miliband by more than 20 points on who the public thought would make the most capable prime minister. Today, Starmer leads Sunak by four.

Starmer’s success has been to detoxify the Labour brand so that it is able to capitalise on Conservative struggles. Can the Conservatives turn things around? Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour almost overturned a similar deficit in 2017 — though from opposition not government. What is unclear is how Sunak’s Conservatives can do something similar when the feeling it is “time for change” appears to have taken hold.

Keiran Pedley is director of politics at Ipsos