British opposition leader under pressure

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Britain's opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband is struggling to maintain support just nine months after into the job, a poll found Sunday, amid a wave of damaging revelations about his centre-left party.

A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times reveals that more than half of Labour voters do not know what their party leader stands for; 41 percent said that electing him as leader had been the wrong decision.

And more than two thirds said he had been ineffective at providing opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Cameron took power at the head of a Conservative-Liberal coalition when Labour was ousted in elections last year.

In September, Miliband surprised commentators by beating his older brother, ex-foreign secretary David Miliband, to replace Gordon Brown as Labour leader.

But he has been criticised for having failed to capitalise on widespread opposition to the coalition's drive to slash the budget deficit by cutting public spending.

John Prescott, who was deputy prime minister under former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, told the Sunday Times: "It is only early days, but it has not been a great start."

Former Labour minister David Blunkett added: "We need to remember that Ed has only been opposition leader for eight months and it took David Cameron two years to establish himself in the public eye.

"However, the next year will prove vital in creating momentum and a sense of direction."

To add to the pressure, a new book claimed Sunday that Miliband's victory over his brother in the Labour leadership contest had sparked a bitter feud between them.

The book, which is serialised in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, says that contrary to Ed's claim that he made a last-minute decision to contest the job, he had in fact spent years plotting behind his brother's back to beat him.

At the time, there were fears that the competition between the brothers might cause a rift similar to the damaging stand-off between Blair and Brown, which plagued the party for a decade.

David Miliband left frontline politics after his leadership defeat, and aides for both brothers on Sunday dismissed suggestions of a major fall-out.

But the revelations top off a difficult week for Miliband.

Leaked documents suggested that he and Labour finance spokesman Ed Balls had plotted to install Brown as premier just after Blair had won a historic third election in 2005.

Blair stepped down two years later, handing power to Brown, his long-standing finance minister, who lost the next election in May 2010.

© 2011 AFP

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