Poor old Ed Miliband is under a lot of pressure right now with Unions questioning his policies and even his credentials to continue as Labour leader. Len Mcluskey of Unite suggested last week that Labour is on course for electoral defeat and warned of a leadership coup. GMB General Secretary, Paul Kenny, warned that backing the pay cap policy for the Public Sector could have profound implications for GMB affiliation to the Labour Party (and its funding). The ever- combustible Bob Crowe of the RMT added “Ed Miliband has just jammed Labour’s self-destruct button into top gear”. Colleagues have piled in with criticism as well, with Lord Glasman saying Miliband has ‘no strategy, no narrative and little energy’. A recent Sunday Times Poll revealed that 49% of labour supporters feel he is doing a bad job.

From a negotiating point of view a political leader is in a constant state of negotiation for positive attention and good will, with both his own party and its members (and of course the electorate). In any negotiation it’s crucial to have sufficient bargaining power at your disposal – enough “aces” in your hand. If you don’t then, consciously or otherwise, you will not feel confident in that negotiation and the other side will pick up that sense of vulnerability and instinctively start to push you around. From Ed Miliband’s point of view he is a bit short of bargaining power at the moment…

Stuck in the Middle

The Tories and Lib Dems have pitched their coalition tent in the centre ground of British politics. This makes it difficult for Miliiband. If he agrees with the Coalition (as on Public sector pay) he sounds weak. But how can he differentiate his policies without sounding extreme? This lack of clear, attractive policy alternatives deprives Miliband of “market power” and, therefore, popularity.

Authority Void

In addition, from the start he has lacked “authority” bargaining power. Many in his party felt that the leadership election ended up backing the wrong Miliband to lead the party, and it was only because of Union bloc votes that Ed won. This has been a drain on his “authority power” from day one. The attacks from Union leaders only intensify this inadequacy. His perceived lack of leadership experience and ministerial experience also undermines his authority power and denies him “expert” status (expertise being another source of bargaining power).

Negotiating Deficiencies

Perhaps the most worrying lack of aces concerns his “personal power” as a negotiator. We all have our personal skills and expertise as a negotiator to call on whatever other aces are ranged against us. However, Ed Miliband seems to fall short in this area at the moment. One noticeable example of this concerns his difficulties in effectively modelling “push” behaviour. “Push” is one of four core behavioural possibilities to choose from as a negotiator. It is particularly useful when you are making a bid or an offer. It can involve stating expectations, using incentives and pressures, testing and probing the other side’s position, and making proposals with reasons. You can see why these would be important behaviours in negotiations with your own party and the electorate to support your policies.

When you “push” it’s important not just that you use the right words, but also that your “music” and “dance” support those words. The “music” is the way you use your voice – its pitch, tone, rhythm, and loudness. The “dance” is the way you use your face and body – facial expressions, posture, eye contact, fidgeting. When you “push” and use assertive language, your voice and body must be assertive as well. If they are not, then the words alone will not be impactful. This seems to be an area of challenge for Ed Miliband; he uses strong language in Parliament and in interviews, but his voice is not strong and his body language is often weak and unconvincing. This gap between words and the way they are expressed means he is not successful in ‘pushing’ either his own party or the electorate towards his point of view.

This is not the only weakness. Ed Miliband seems to experience difficulties with other negotiating behaviours too – including “joining behaviour” (such as visualising inspiring outcomes from working together) and “pull behaviour” (e.g. disclosing feelings impactfully).

Vulnerable to attack

When you are perceived to lack enough bargaining power to protect yourself, then those involved on the other side of the negotiating table will pick this up and start pushing you around. Cue all sorts of criticism from his own party, the electorate, and various pundits – including me! It’s hard not to feel sorry for the man, who seems genuine and clever. However, he needs more “bargaining power” to turn this state of affairs around.

Miliband should seek some clear, differentiating policies to give him “market power”. He should bring in new high profile colleagues and sponsors to give himself “authority power” (and the power of some “expertise” – where is Lord Mandelson when he’s needed?). And above all he should improve his negotiating skills so as to enhance his “personal power” as a negotiator…there is no excuse for missing that Ace in your hand.