IN an Olympic year, it was apt that Ed Miliband should use a sporting analogy to defend his faltering leadership: “Don’t declare the result of the race when it is not yet half-run.”
Yet, while the next election is still, in all likelihood, more than three years away, the Doncaster MP cannot afford any more slip-ups before Labour activists, and the trade unionists, conclude that the leadership baton should be passed to a more likely winner.
Yes, it did take David Cameron time to find his feet when he was Opposition leader. However, after 15 months in the job, it was already clear that the Conservatives were changing and that they were prepared to acknowledge past failings.
And while Mr Miliband was the first to embrace the “squeezed middle” and identify “crony capitalism” as a campaign theme, few people associate him with these two messages which are now being taken up with zeal by Mr Cameron.
Instead, they regard Mr Miliband as a man still in denial about the extent of Labour’s contribution crisis to the economic crisis, though he does finally concede that the next PM will have put even more measures in place to cut the deficit.
That alone will not suffice. He has to realise that the country – financially-speaking – is very different to the Blair-Brown era and he can only begin to set out a mission for the future once he has acknowledged the political and economic mistakes which occurred between 1997-2010.
If Mr Miliband had done this at the outset of his leadership rather than becoming pre-occupied with the unions who voted him into this position, the political narrative in 2012 would not be endless debate about Mr Miliband’s ability to do the job – but the merits of Labour’s alternative and how it compares to the Coalition’s record. In short, time is running out for him to save his job.