Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Miliband's speech - a hit?

Just like one swallow does not a summer make, one speech doesn’t a Prime Minister make. Despite the rave reviews for Miliband’s conference speech only time will tell whether its enough to move him into number 10.

What he certainly and rather audaciously did was move his tank very much onto the middle ground of British politics. A space that his party strategists feel that David Cameron has moved out of. And the way he did it was by conjuring up the ghost of a 19 century Tory, Benjamin Disraeli and his concept of one nation politics. So having had 'Old Labour' then 'New Labour', we now have 'One Nation Labour.'

The challenge Miliband had yesterday was to put to bed any lingering doubts within his own party about his leadership. Last year’s conference speech was a lackluster affair so the lad had to do better this year.

And better he did. In a high risk strategy, he threw away his notes and lectern and talked for about an hour from the heart. That is if you can speak from the heart after about five practice runs. One mustn’t be churlish, it paid off.

The conference and his party were delighted. Many of his own comrades didn’t think he had it in him. He proved them wrong. The lad did well.

His theme was that Labour would rebuild Britain as one nation. Just so that we all got the point, he used the term “one nation” 44 times. A demented woodpecker wouldn’t have been so repetitive.

It wasn’t just Disraeli but dear old Clem Attlee was brought into play quoting from the parties 1945 manifesto “Britain had won the second world war as one nation, and could win the peace the same way.”  In a sentimental party such nostalgia always goes down well.

The rhetoric was good. He even managed in a one nation speech to hint at a bit of class warfare courtesy of the Chief Whip. “You cannot be a one nation prime minister if your chief whip insults the great police officers of our country by calling them plebs.”

But in terms of substance apart from saying the free market would be taken from health and his commitment to those doing vocational courses there was little to chew over. It was very much commitment lite.  An acknowledgement that austerity will continue under a Miliband government.

But it certainly was a wake up call to the other parties who until yesterday thought Ed Miliband was their secret weapon. The geek came out fighting. He showed that he isn’t the push over they all thought he was. 

This speech got his own party on board but the jury is still out at to whether the voters perceive him as a future prime minister.


  1. In advance of the conference people said that what Ed Milliband had failed to do was to set a vision for the country in language that people could understand. They called on him to move away from being seen as a policy 'geek'. In a speech that is welcomed as a courageous success where he set out a vision using the illustration of a Tory Prime Minister of replacing two nations with one some now say it is light on policy commitments - well there were some policy commitments in there like the indication of changing company law to prevent predatory takeovers - a major shift to encourage longer term planning in industry if it is done.
    But if we judge it on the one thing they called for in advance I think it has been as a great success - an idea which people could understand and which could show Labour to be different from the Tory-LibDem coalition. The vision of a party committed to 'one nation policies' certainly does that and it is easy for people to see - no tax breaks for millionaires while the poorest are hit hardest; using a windfall from the sale of a broadband frequency to fund housing and in the process kick starting the economy! It sounds like traditional Labour values to me and for that I welcome it. I can only hope that it works.

  2. Housing to kick start the economy? And there's me thinking it would be manufacturing which would do that. Forgive me for being so old fashioned.

    Where does Wales, Scotland, England, N Ireland fit into this 'One Nation'. There's me once again being old fashioned or whatever and thinking we were 4.

  3. Milliband has never held a real job, is completely lacking in gravitas or substance and aligns his politics in the centre to attract votes, not to reflect his true beliefs (although who knows what they are?). It is depressing how alike the parties and politicians are in every way. Who represents the ordinary working man now?