Calls for shadow cabinet shake-up
Ed Miliband is under pressure to shake up his shadow cabinet amid continuing concern within the Labour ranks that the party is not getting through to voters.
Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott became the latest senior figure to warn that time was running out for the party to make an impact ahead of the general election in 2015.
Allies of the Labour leader dismissed the criticism of his low-key performance over the summer as "hysteria", insisting they were winning back support in key areas across the country. But Mr Miliband's position was not helped by an opinion poll showing his personal approval rating had hit a record low with a dramatic slump since the spring.
Writing in his column in the Sunday Mirror, Lord Prescott echoed warnings by senior figures such as Jack Straw and Andy Burnham, saying Labour had "massively failed" to get its case across to the public over the summer. He urged Mr Miliband to follow the example of former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and get rid of under-performing shadow ministers.
"If shadow cabinet members aren't pulling their weight, give them the hairdryer treatment and kick 'em out," he wrote. "Time is running out. We can still turn it around and win in the second half. But we need the very best team, week in, week out."
There was more criticism for Mr Miliband from his one-time guru, the academic Lord Glasman, who said the Labour leader needed to show he was a "grown-up politician" able to lead the country.
"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 in an article for The Mail on Sunday. "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."
Such interventions will strengthen speculation that Mr Miliband will carry out a wide-ranging reshuffle of his top team when MPs return from their summer break, with figures associated with the Blair-Brown era thought to be vulnerable.
Pressure on him to reassert his authority was intensified by a ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror, showing just 22% thought he was doing a good job compared to 50% who did not. It gave him an overall personal approval rating of minus 28 - a 17-point fall since May - representing his worst showing in a ComRes poll. The findings put him virtually level-pegging with David Cameron on minus 27, a drop of two points.
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 hard-working Britons."