RESSURE is growing on Labour leader Ed Miliband to carry out a major shake-up of his frontbench team after former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott became the latest senior party figure to warn its message is failing to reach the voters.
Lord Prescott urged Mr Miliband to kick out under performing members of his shadow ministerial team as a new poll suggested the Labour leader’s personal approval rating has fallen 17 points since May and is now level with the Prime Minister’s.
Mr Miliband, the Doncaster North MP, is widely expected to carry out a reshuffle in the coming weeks.
It has previously been suggested that the changes will be relatively modest in scale but criticism of Labour’s failure to influence the political agenda over the summer has now placed question marks over the future of senior Shadow Ministers.
Lord Prescott, the former Hull East MP, urged Mr Miliband to follow the example of former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“If Shadow Cabinet members aren’t pulling their weight, give them the hairdryer treatment and kick ‘em out,” he wrote in a newspaper column.
He said over the summer Labour had “massively failed to get our case over to the public and hold the Tories to account. We missed open goals!”
Lord Prescott has joined a growing chorus of criticism of the way Labour has performed over the summer with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham recently complaining the party needs to “shout louder” and former whip Graham Stringer complaining of the “deafening silence” from the Shadow Cabinet.
There was more criticism over the weekend for Mr Miliband from his former adviser Lord Glasman.
“At the very time when Labour should be showing the way ahead, it gives the impression of not knowing which way to turn,” he wrote.
“When the Labour battle bus should be revving up, it is parked in a lay-by of introspection. It is time for Ed Miliband to show he is a grown-up politician big enough to lead this country.”
But Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint attempted to play down the importance of the criticism being levelled at the Labour leader.
The Don Valley MP said: “Individual popularity poll ratings are always given prominence, but the truth is that, when it comes to the election, that’s not always a significant factor.
“Think back to Labour leaders in the past who were popular but couldn’t win elections. Margaret Thatcher was unpopular but won elections. Sometimes these things are overplayed.”
Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna also offered his backing, dismissing the attacks as August “hysteria”.
Labour is due to hold its annual conference in Brighton next month leaving Mr Miliband facing a dilemma over whether to make changes now giving shadow ministers little time to get to grips with their new jobs before being thrust into the spotlight or to wait until later in the autumn and risk looking indecisive.
The unrest in the Labour ranks was greeted with glee by its opponents yesterday.
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said that it appeared to be “open season” on Mr Miliband’s “weak” leadership.
“Another day and Labour’s summer of discontent deepens,” he said. “People will notice that if Ed Miliband can’t get a grip on his own party, then how can he possibly stand up for the interests of hardworking Britons.”