>Ed Miliband’s confused message

>Ed Miliband took to the stage properly as leader of the Labour party for the first time, and delivered a populist speech that seemed to forget that only a matter of months ago he had written a manifesto that led to the Labour party’s biggest defeat since Michael Foot. Not to worry thought the packed crowd, the preacher was on stage, and he was flanked by ‘the new generation’ of kids, who said politely behind him.

He started almost apologetically, referencing his defeated brother David almost immediately by praising his speech and telling stories of their childhood. He was actually even funny – ‘I took David’s football once, so he nationalised my train set’. A hackish joke, yes, but a Labour leader that smiles without making you want to vomit has got to be a start. 

A very noticeable thing about the speech was that it didn’t seem to have an overall theme or flow. He talked a lot about the past, and Labour’s (many) failings. It seemed to be in direct contrast to Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg’s constant references to the future. Then later, Ed got stuck in the future, demanding optimism, and finished by being two word shy of stealing Clegg’s ‘together we will can change Britain for good’ line. Overall, it was rambling and unfocussed, repeatedly declaring ‘I tell you this…’ forgetting that it was constantly telling us what to do that resulted in Labour being booted out in May.

It also took Ed Miliband 25 minutes to remember he may one day be Prime Minister. No matter, as by that point most neutral viewers had probably already discounted the notion. So, in attempts to appease the centre ground, he said he wouldn’t attack the coalition for the sake of it, and that he wouldn’t support irresponsible trade union strikes. On foreign policy he criticised the war in Iraq. He was greeted by stoney faced, unclapping union officials at one, and a stoney faced, unclapping brother at the other. Much fun lies ahead on those fronts…

Ed Miliband has a difficult task. While his comrades may hate the government, most people do not. The public understand the need for the actions the coalition are taking, and are bored of the brazen partisanship its formation seemed to end. Miliband’s commitment to a living wage is laudable, and he even made a half decent attempt at setting out an alternative economic vision, but after 13 years of failure it was all pretty hard to take seriously. 

It was a speech delivered in the shadow of his brother, the man who would be (should be?) King. It was a speech delivered to try and recapture the centre ground. It was a speech delivered to try and make Ed Miliband look like a credible Prime Minister. He can claim that he understands, that he gets it. However, it is going to take a lot of work to wipe out the unlucky 13, Labour’s record in government that Ed has to both defend, and move on from.


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