A Dream for Ed Miliband, A Wake-Up Call for Labour

21/10/2013 17:15 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

This month's Political Monitor shows that Ed Miliband has had a dream of a month, although for the Labour Party as a whole it will serve as a wake-up call.

Prior to the party conferences, his personal ratings were at an all time low, with even Labour supporters losing confidence in him. More than half of the public did not know what he stood for. Fast forward a month and Mr Miliband is the most popular (read: least unpopular) leader of the three main parties. Albeit his lead over David Cameron is negligible, but it is certainly an impressive turnaround. Satisfaction in his performance as Labour leader has risen 12 percentage points in just a month to 36%. Among Labour supporters, satisfaction has risen by 21 points from 40% to 61%, solidifying his leadership position where it had been weakening. Less people don't know what he stands for, down six points to 45% this month - a figure that he will still look to improve, but is at least a step in the right direction.

And it looks like they like what they see. Quite apart from his personal poll boost, Mr Miliband's proposed policy to freeze domestic energy prices is the most popular to come out of conference season (62% rate it as one the best policies for them, 50% best for the country) - and this before the British Gas price hike and subsequent social media calamity. As we argued in August, sharpening the public's perception of his policies was a key area for improvement - and is an area he has now certainly strengthened.

The proposed energy price freeze appears to be popular regardless of accusations that it represents a lurch to the left. Indeed if Ed is Red, people are as likely to see David as True Blue - as many see David Cameron as right wing as see Ed Miliband as left wing (24% and 26% respectively). The public themselves are satisfyingly split neatly across the political spectrum, with around three in ten each claiming to be left (27%), right (29%) and centre (29%). Nick Clegg is the closest perceived match with the views of the public, but this so far remains unreflected in the popularity polls, either personally or for his party.

However, there is one trend that is less good news for Labour and Mr Miliband, with the Conservatives now achieving a vote score in the mid-30s for the second month in a row. They are now neck-and-neck with 35% support each. This appears to be for several reasons. The other leaders, while not pulling up trees to the extent Ed Miliband has in the last month, have also had a successful season. Conservative supporters continue to be the most likely to vote, demonstrating the limited effect one policy, even a very popular policy, can have in changing the minds of voters. And, all-importantly, the economy - and economic optimism - continues to grow.

As good a month as it has been for Ed Miliband, neither has it been a bad one for his opponents. David Cameron's satisfaction ratings are up three percentage points, with Nick Clegg up seven points. Each have also come out with a popular policy of their own; the Conservatives' own freeze on petrol duty is nearly as popular as Labour's on energy prices, with the Lib Dems' income tax threshold rise also widely supported.

Meanwhile, economic optimism remains strong. Although down 4 points from September, 33 straight months where more believed the economy was getting worse than getting better ended in June and the Conservatives may well be reaping the rewards. Our September polling showed that they are now winning this argument, having built up an 18 point lead over Labour on managing the economy, after being neck-and-neck in March.

Unfortunately for the Liberal Democrats, their coalition partners do not appear to be reaping similar benefits, however. With no boost since the economic upturn - indeed, very little change in the past two years - in the number intending to vote Lib Dem, their position looks bleak. Although if the split in the polls between Labour and the Conservatives continues, the chance of another hung parliament can't be ruled out.

All of this leaves the political situation intriguingly poised well into the penultimate year of this parliament, with a rejuvenated opposition leader facing a government that is hardly loved but has the winds of an economic upturn in its sails. As it stands it is too close to call.