Ed Miliband on podium
Ed Miliband on podium Reuters

As Labour heads into its annual party conference in Manchester superficially all would appear to be well for the party.

True they are in opposition, but they have been well ahead in the polls for most of this year, often with a double digit lead over the governing Tories. The memory of the fratricidal leadership contest in which the allegedly brilliant and statesmanlike David Miliband was robbed of the leadership by his younger brother is starting to fade.

Despite this the party still has a problem in the form of Ed Miliband, with a poll in The Sun today showing that almost half of Labour voters believe their leader to be too weak to be Prime Minister.

This must surely be a source of quiet terror to the Labour Party who have experience of fighting an unpopular government with an unpopular leader.

It is said that the 1992 general election was the defining experience of the Blair-Brown generation, a trauma so severe that seared itself into the soul of every Labour member.

Poll after poll showed that John Major's Tory government was set to be ejected by the Labour Party under Neil Kinnock. On the night of the election parties were held to celebrate the fall of the Tories. Yet when the results came in John Major lived to fight another day.

How could this happen? Two of the most posited explanations revolve around the qualities of Kinnock himself. Was it the Sun election day front page showing the Labour leader's head shaped like a lightbulb? Or was it the actions of Kinnock himself when he allowed himself to be prematurely crowned Prime Minister and started shouting "We're Alrrright! We're Alrrright!"

Possibly both were important but another explanation is that many voters were simply lying to pollsters. Too ashamed to admit they voted Tory they said they supported Labour and then on polling day put their cross in the Conservative box.

Since then polling techniques have improved (indeed one wonders why we even bother with the elections since we know in advance the result) but the Labour Party must surely fear that just as in the early '90s their poll lead is built on sand.

Indeed with two and a half years until the next election the Labour Party seriously needs to start showing that it has more to offer the country than a gawky policy wonk posing as the leader of a serious political party.

It's almost hard to believe now after a summer of pasty taxes and granny taxes but the Tories were actually storming ahead in the polls as recently as last winter thanks to David Cameron's alleged veto of an EU treaty.

Since then of course it has sunk in among the British people that David Cameron did not veto anything of substance for Britain. Yet if the Conservatives can get such a huge poll boost from merely pretending to be anti EU, what would happen if David Cameron actually did offer an EU referendum as he hinted yesterday?

Of course the Labour Party poll lead is not merely the result of a lot of Tories defecting to UKIP but is also a symptom of the weak state of the British economy.

Since the Coalition came to power the country has re-entered recession, apparently proving the Ed Balls line that cuts have been "too far, too fast" to be correct.

Yet this week the Office for National Statistics confirmed that its initial estimate that second quarter GDP had declined by 0.7 per cent had been revised to a decline of 0.4 per cent. Not exactly the best news ever but an indication that the economy is not as bad as it could be and should Britain return to economic growth well before the election the Tories may well be in with a chance.

So what should Labour do at its conference? First of all abandon any attempt of making Ed Miliband appear "Prime Ministerial". There are some things that simply cannot be done. He is and probably always will be, a slightly weird, nasal voiced, policy geek who has never had a real job outside politics.

What Labour needs is some policies that will excite and entice people to vote for them. In fact the policies do not even need to be credible (they can get tips from Nick Clegg on this front) just something that people can relate to. Surely the creation of such policies is not beyond the policy-wonk in chief?