Senior Labour figures have rallied to the defence of Ed Miliband after a challenging week for the Labour leader in which a series of polls cast doubt on his likelihood to be elected Prime Minister.
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, who led Labour to two successive general election defeats, praised the Doncaster North MP’s “great personal and political courage” and insisted he is a “real leader” with the “toughness” to take the party into government.
And shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, touted by many as a future Labour leader, said Mr Miliband was a “man of great beliefs” and dismissed concerns about the Labour leader’s poor personal ratings.
He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are not playing some game of Celebrity Big Brother. 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.”
Mr Miliband has had low personal approval ratings in a series of opinion polls, with one recent survey finding that voters thought his older brother David would make a better prime minister.
In an interview with The Observer, Lord Kinnock, who backed the younger Miliband’s leadership bid, hit out at the “vindictiveness” of the press.
An Opinium poll gave Labour a four-point lead over the Tories, with Mr Miliband’s party on 35%, the Conservatives on 31%, Ukip on 17% and the Liberal Democrats on 7%.
But, in an indication of the challenges facing Mr Miliband, just 23% of the electorate said they approve of the way he is handling his job as Labour leader, compared with 49% who disapprove.
David Cameron had better ratings, with 37% approving of his performance as Prime Minister against 47% who disapprove.