There aren't that many politicians who feature in bachelorette party selfies. Yet that is exactly where Labour Party leader Ed Miliband ended up this weekend, when a U.K. lawyer on her hen do (the British version of a bachelorette party) came aboard his campaign bus for photos.
Since winning the party leadership in a contest with his elder brother David, Miliband has consistently had lower personal poll ratings than Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. There are reports that many of his own party members still privately express misgivings about whether Miliband is Prime Minister material.
His decision to call for the break-up of Rupert Murdoch's U.K. empire following the phone-hacking scandal did not make him any friends in the media mogul's outlets, which constitute an important part of the British media landscape. Plus, an earlier photo opportunity of him awkwardly eating a bacon sandwich famously turned into an Internet meme.
Both major parties have failed to establish a commanding lead in the polls in the run up to the May 2015 election, but Miliband has noticeably warmed up.
A YouGov/"Sunday Times" poll at the weekend showed Miliband's personal rating was at its highest in more than two years. Although more people still thought the Conservative's Cameron would make the best Prime Minister, Miliband was seen as more honest, trustworthy and in touch with ordinary people's concerns.
"Voters are warming to the idea of an Ed Miliband-led government," Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov, wrote in a blog post.
The U.K. political system doesn't feature a U.S. Presidential-style vote—instead, citizens vote for their local candidate and the Prime Minister is elected from the party that forms a government (usually the party with most votes). However, you wouldn't know this from some of the media's attacks on Miliband, for everything from his father's Marxist writings to the fact that his north London home has two kitchens.
These attacks have widened to include criticism of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which failed to secure Scottish independence last year, but is rapidly emerging as a potential coalition partner for Labour in the next government.
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and one of the best-known Conservative Party politicians in the country, attacked the Labour Party leader and his prospective coalition partner in a Facebook post on Monday.
"Miliband is already the most Left-wing Labour leader since Michael Foot, promoting an agenda that seems to be avowedly hostile to wealth creation and "predatory" capitalism," he said.
"The SNP are Lefties on steroids. They want to abandon any attempt to get the deficit under control, and indeed the Treasury has calculated that they would borrow another £148 billion."
Markets are increasingly pricing in the prospect of a minority government, rather than a formal coalition, with either the Conservative or Labour party reliant on support from other, smaller parties, to pass laws.
"A minority government will heighten uncertainty over how successful the government will be in pursuing its policy agenda and how long the next parliament will last," Bill O'Neill, who heads UBS Wealth Management's U.K. investment office, wrote in a research note. "This will lead to higher risk premium for UK assets and an uncomfortable increase in volatility."
Yet a minority government may not be as bad as some fear.
"There is a sort of folk memory in the UK – largely based on the 1970s experience – that minority governments are much more risky than majority governments. We doubt this applies any more," Citi analysts wrote in a research note. "Minority governments are less risky in economic terms than they used to be."