Here we go again.
The Labour leader Ed Miliband is to give a major speech amid an atmosphere of crisis and doubt about his leadership. This time the speech is at the TUC conference in Bournemouth and, although the importance of such speeches can be exaggerated, Mr Miliband will know how critical it is for him to deliver a convincing and memorable message after several weeks of uncertainty and criticism. He will have to do all he can to impress his detractors - in the unions, in his party and among millions of voters still swithering about how to vote at the next General Election.
The problem for Mr Miliband is the same one that has plagued him since he became leader in 2010: a lack of charisma and a failure to be convincing on the qualities that voters look for in a Prime Minister. In an ideal world, this would not be an issue - after all, it is the content of policies that should matter rather than personal charm - but the grim story of the polls cannot be ignored. The most recent YouGov survey, for example, showed Mr Miliband scoring risible singe-figure ratings on decisiveness, strength, charisma and leadership. It is a long-standing pattern and, unless it changes, suggests that victory for Labour in 2015 will be hard to achieve.
At the heart of tomorrow's speech at the TUC will be Labour's relationship with the trade unions and the investigation into the selection of the party's candidate in Falkirk. Mr Miliband will tell delegates that, despite an internal report clearing the Unite union of trying the rig the Falkirk selection, he is determined to push on with his proposed reforms to Labour's links with the unions - reforms that would remove the automatic affiliation of union members to Labour. This is the right approach - in the face of a substantial risk to Labour's coffers, as evidenced last night by Unison's decision to cut £250,000 from its funding - and has the potential, as Mr Miliband says, to build a party that is truly, rather than automatically, rooted in the lives of working people. However, the fall-out over the decision demonstrates a recurring problem for Mr Miliband: what he says is often right, but how he says it lets him down.
The Falkirk crisis is an example of this problem, but there are others. Over Syria, for instance, Mr Miliband was absolutely right to say that no decision should be made on a military strike until there is convincing evidence the regime used chemical weapons. But his handling of the vote in the Commons left him looking like a man who has the right political instincts but is unable to capitalise on them.
The same applies to Mr Miliband's handling of economic policy. In 2011, he talked about his determination to help what he called Britain's squeezed middle. It was an inspired phrase and had the potential to capture the mood of families struggling to make their household budgets work. They are still struggling - figures out today show most households believe their finances are in a worse state than last year - but, again, Mr Miliband seems unable to transform the right policy into popularity. It is a problem that will only get harder if the economy continues to improve.
Mr Miliband and his advisors know there is not a lot of time left to fix this problem - the General Election is only 20 months away -but how to fix it is a much trickier prospect. Certainly, clear, robust policies are needed, but the delivery of those policies is just as important. The summer of silence is over; what is needed now are words of promise passionately delivered.
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