Miliband Counters U.K. Leadership Doubts With Youth Welfare Vow

U.K. opposition leader Ed Miliband pledged to cut welfare for low-skilled jobless young people as he tried to fight criticism that he lacks the qualities to be prime minister.

A YouGov Plc poll for Prospect magazine today found 48 percent of people saying they’d be “dismayed” if the Labour Party leader became prime minister after the May 2015 general election, against 17 percent who said they’d be “delighted.” By almost two to one, people said Miliband didn’t share their views about what was good and bad about Britain.

Miliband attempted to deal with criticisms that his party is soft on welfare today by announcing that unskilled young people would lose payments unless they went into training.

“We can’t succeed as a country with unskilled young people going from benefits to low-paid work and back again without proper skills,” he said in a speech in London. “It doesn’t give business the productive workforce they need. And it costs the taxpayer billions of pounds in extra welfare spending and lower productivity.”

Polls this week offer a mixed picture for Labour. On overall voting intention, the party is about 4 percentage points ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, enough to give it a majority in Parliament.

For Miliband, the picture is negative. YouGov found people were nearly twice as likely to agree than disagree that he didn’t understand business and hadn’t learned lessons from his party’s mistakes in office. On one of his key policies, 54 percent said he’d fail to keep energy prices low, against 29 percent who thought he’d succeed.

YouGov polled 1,740 adults on June 1 and June 2.

Lukewarm Support

Peter Mandelson, who was Labour’s Business Secretary under Gordon Brown, last night offered only lukewarm support. “He is the leader we have and therefore the leader I support,” he told the BBC.

After his speech, Miliband said he thought he could “defy the odds.”

“I didn’t take this job because I thought it would be a walk in the park,” he said in response to questions. “I fought for this job because I thought it was important and I thought I had something distinctive to say about how we can change this country, and I believe that more now than I did three-and-a-half years ago.”

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