STOCKTON-ON-TEES, ENGLAND — Even before the election campaign began, the verdict was in on Ed Miliband: He was too weak and too weird to be Britain’s prime minister.
His approval ratings flirted with the lowest ever recorded for a major party leader. Among his Labor supporters, there were whispers of a coup. And with Britain’s economy recovering from the depths of recession, Conservative Party leader David Cameron seemed to have reelection locked up.
But British voters, not known for their faith in the powers of redemption, have done something unusual over the past month: They’ve given Miliband, the 45-year-old son of Jewish refugees who fled to Britain to escape the Nazis, a second chance.
The Labor leader has seized it, tapping a vein of popular discontent over the widening gap between rich and poor. With just a week to go before the country votes, he’s now a slight favorite to become prime minister once the dust has settled on the closest and most politically fragmented British election in decades. Polls suggest that he is highly unlikely to secure a majority in the Parliament, but may be positioned to lead an informal and potentially fractious coalition of parties from the left.