6 October 2012


I'm late on this, because I've only just watched that Ed Miliband speech in full. But here we go:

  • It was very good as a performance, but the ability to memorise a speech and ad lib a little without notes is not that remarkable. Actors, stand-up comedians and teachers do it all the time.
  • There wasn't anything new in it. Not that there needed to be – the business of political communications is endless repetition –  and what Miliband had to do was prove he was a man of the people, or at least a man capable of communicating with the people, which he did.
  • The "One Nation" theme is at once inspired and dangerous. "One Nation Labour" is as good as "New Labour" in suggesting a fresh start, a break with a damaged reputation, and there's just about enough in the tag to give the impression that Labour is now with everyone but the super-rich, which is what it needs to do: it can't win unless it convinces people who see themselves as middle-class (even if they're actually wage-slaves). It's also a clever piece of political larceny: "One Nation" is a Tory slogan with its origins in Benjamin Disraeli's daring gamble that enfranchising a patriotic imperialist working class  –  or at least some of it  – would benefit his party. (I simplify, but that's the basic story.)
  • The problem is that it's as vulnerable as David Cameron's claim that "we're all in this together": unless it's fleshed out in credible policy, it's no more than warm words. And Labour is all over the place on what it wants to do. On one hand, the top rate of tax goes up if Labour wins (cheers from the left); on the the other, the welfare budget will be cut (cheers from the right). It would be idiotic to make firm promises this far from a general election, but Miliband's speech gave no one any idea even about the policy framework he'd be using as prime minister. There is a lot more work to be done.

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