Johnson warns Miliband on 'message'
Ed Miliband must work harder to get his message across to the public if Labour is to recover from a "shaky start" to 2012, senior Labour MP Alan Johnson has warned.
The former cabinet minister said he believes the party leader has "the personality, the intellect and the steely determination to succeed".
But he said that unless he gets out "on the stump" to gain public recognition and make the Opposition sound more relevant to ordinary voters, it will be in trouble.
Mr Johnson, who stepped down as shadow chancellor almost a year ago for personal reasons, wrote in The Mirror that this is a "pivotal year".
The party, he said, is "in good shape" - reserving particular praise for the most senior shadow cabinet members including his replacement Ed Balls.
"Yet the message is not getting through," he cautioned. "Small opinion poll leads, welcome as they are, cannot hide the fact that the public remain suspicious about Labour."
That was not helped by "unfortunate comments by people who profess their support for the leader they are busily undermining", he said - in a swipe at Lord Glasman. The Labour peer claimed last week that the leadership appears to have "no strategy, no narrative and little energy", during a tough week for Mr Miliband.
But Mr Johnson conceded that the leadership is not helping itself by failing to present its policies effectively and too often sounding like a "debating society" or "university seminar".
"At the moment Labour is like a pearl stuck firmly inside an oyster. Inside there's a gem but the public can only see the shell," he wrote. "In my view, Ed Miliband has the personality, the intellect and the steely determination to succeed - to set out a vision for a better society, to formulate a clear message and to face up to the difficult priorities that will need to be set."
But that requires "a better grip on messaging, including over who speaks and when", he added, and recognition by shadow ministers that they have to offer a "credible alternative" as well as criticising the coalition.