Will it be a Happy New Year for Ed Miliband?

21/12/2011 15:21 GMT | Updated 18/02/2012 10:12 GMT

To answer my own question, it should be. But, what is becoming increasingly more apparent, it won't be. Never has a Labour leader had it so good; a rampant Tory government, a divided Lib Dem horde that would fail to overcome Harold Shipman in a popularity contest and a sinking economy being dragged ever-closer towards a double-dip recession by a Chancellor determined to see through his failing austerity plan. This is what they refer to in the footballing world as a clear open goal. But, to the amazement of many, Ed Miliband has somehow managed to instigate a monumental decline in support for the party of the opposition.

Latest ICM polling indicates that the Tories currently enjoy a six-point lead over Labour; the party's biggest lead for over a year. What will be of most concern to those within the Labour ranks is the fact that this sudden surge of support for Cameron follows both the autumn statement and the EU Brussels summit. When the country would ordinarily be in dismay, instead, they find themselves unable to put their faith in a Labour leader who clearly - and wrongly - feels the country is moving leftwards. The reality is that the nation is in fact edging, politically, towards to the centre ground; if not rightwards. The main attestation of this is UKIP's recent stream of popularity.

So where is Ed going wrong? (How long is a piece of string?) His first, and most fatal, mistake is his judgement over which direction Britain is moving. A plethora of recent events have highlighted the nation's casual shift towards conservatism and traditional Tory stances. The riots. The EU. The welfare state. The economy. Whatever the issue, Labour are seemingly singing from an entirely different hymn sheet than the general public. Whilst 'Red Ed' was concerning himself with the deep-rooted social problems driving August's wild looting spree, YouGov was reporting that 65% of people supported the use of plastic bullets; 77% of those surveyed felt that the army should be sent in to clampdown on dissenters.

In relation to the welfare state, Ed Miliband has been - unsurprisingly - quiet. He has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the fact that there are undoubtedly individuals incessantly sponging off the state. Conversely, Cameron has placed it at the top of his agenda. The latest British Social Attitudes survey emphasised how, and why, Cameron is so on the money in comparison to Ed Miliband's overly leftist rabble. Over half of those asked believe that benefit payments are too high. Now, regardless of whether or not you feel £67.50 a week is sufficient income for which to survive, the most important thing for Labour to do, if they have any intention of returning to power, is to address the publics' anxieties.

Thus far, they have not. Miliband has forgotten the golden rule of politics. Do not be afraid to morph, modify and rework. He could learn a thing or two from the ultimate amender; Tony Blair. Blair knew to be progressive, with the right amount of conservatism. Principled, but no ideologue. A moderniser, but not an extremist. Perhaps Miliband will learn in time. The question is: how much time does he have? With heir apparents lining up en masse - David Miliband, Yvette Cooper, Ed Balls - the current Labour leader will need to get his act together. And fast. Thankfully for fans of this left-wing idealist, Ed is no old dog; new tricks can be learnt.

Opposition is a long, hard slog. The problem with Labour since Ed's tenure is that they have panicked; rushing to challenge the Tories on near enough every issue. Be it economic policy, immigration figures or pension reforms, Labour have popped up offering their alternate proposals. With four years to go until the next election, we do not need this. Instead, lessons need to be learnt from smart-minded individuals in the shadow cabinet. Individuals such as Jim Murphy and Stephen Twigg. Unlike colleagues Chukka Umunna and Rachel Reeves, Murphy and Twigg know how to express their perspective without forfeiting dignity. Rather than bombard the electorate with ceaseless appearances on political shows, the shadow defence and education secretaries sporadically offer their incite and wisdom.

This is the way forward if Labour is to regain a significant lead in the polls, and, more importantly, a considerable leap of faith from average citizens across the country. Had Labour not been so keen to criticise and condemn the Tories at each and every opportunity they may still be reaping the endless benefits of being in opposition. Sitting back and allowing the Conservatives to self-destruct ought to have been Plan A. Perhaps, rather than continually knocking the Tories' inability to change course, Labour should be self-reflecting and taking their own detour. Only then can Ed Miliband enjoy a fruitful 2012; though time may well be running out.