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Ed Miliband pushed left-wing Scots’ buttons today – but he needed to do more

21 March 2014

4:29 PM

21 March 2014

4:29 PM

English Labour leaders tend to find Scottish party conferences difficult. The Scots tend to be more old-fashioned, unreconstructed and left-wing than their English colleagues which can make it difficult for English party leaders to gauge the mood when they come north.

But Ed Miliband actually managed to get through his address to the Scottish Labour Party conference without any major problems this afternoon, primarily because he managed to adapt his One Nation slogan to fit the independence debate. Miliband has been banging on about One Nation for two years now with few people having any idea what he means. But when he refers to the independence debate, the concept suddenly has meaning – and this is what he concentrated on today.

‘You cannot be a narrow nationalist and stand for social justice,’ he said.

The idea, both of the UK and of One Nation Labour, was about ‘sharing resources and sharing risks’, the Labour leader said, and ‘on that basis we redistribute’.


He equated One Nation with the campaign to keep the Union intact but then went further to insist that staying together would mean fighting for ‘social justice’ for all, across the whole of the UK.

Miliband was careful to press all the appropriate left-wing buttons for his Scottish audience, praising the legacy of John Smith, reaffirming his commitment to restoring the 50p tax rate and attacking SNP plans to reduce corporation tax in an independent Scotland. In a clear nod to the Left in the party in Scotland, he then urged the activists to ‘campaign for fairness and redistribution’. And he added: ‘We have to take on the vested interests to achieve this’.

The Labour Leader was strongest when attacking George Osborne’s Budget – or rather attacking the controversial Conservative advertising which followed the Budget which had described hard-working people as ‘they’. To cheers from the floor, Mr Miliband described the ad as a ‘haughty, out-of-touch misconceived piece of nonsense’. And then he said: ‘The Tories say “they”. We say “us”. Labour: the party of hard-working people’.

There have been times when UK Labour leaders have had to come to Scotland to wrestle with their parties – Tony Blair had to do it most years. On other occasions, party leaders have come to Scotland to bolster their own faltering reputations – Gordon Brown did that, several times. Today Miliband needed to come and bring the party together in the fight for the future of the Union: that was the only thing he had to do.

And while he achieved that in part, mostly he just appeared to be simply going through the motions. He did his usual, walk-about speech, ignoring the podium and the autocue to stride around the stage without notes, calling out ‘friends’ as often as possible and securing applause every time he mentioned a Scottish Labour politician – alive or dead – (but notably not Brown nor Blair).

But, although he said pretty much all the right things, Miliband left with many in the audience with a feeling that he had only half performed. He was on stage for less than 20 minutes in total and said very little that hadn’t been trailed to the media ahead of time yesterday.

In the end, he left the impression that the speech was fine. It was middling. It was ok. It was passable. But it was no more than that.

He got through his experience of addressing the dreaded Scottish Labour conference but his speech was forgettable rather than memorable and, with a referendum to win and a party to galvanise ahead of the next election, he probably needed a bit more than that.

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Show comments
  • rjbh

    so, what this really leads up to, will Scottish voters vote for Ed (JoLa’s) boss, or Alex Salmond. put yer money on Alex a decent bet at 4/1.

  • dougthedug

    And he did a major body-swerve away from what should have been the centrepiece of Labour’s Scottish Region conference – the devolution proposals they’d just issued.

    It only got one mention in the style of, “You’ll have to mention it or they’ll notice you didn’t.

  • Iain Hill

    What a load of bilge! Read the RIC site to see what Scots really aspire to.

  • asalord

    More patronizing drivel from a Westminster unionist.
    “…sharing resources…” Miliband, in the worst tradition of Westminster, will continue the squandering of Scotland’s North sea oil revenues. More WMDs anyone?

    • Michael Mckeown

      It’s ‘squandered’? well if it is squandered then it’s squandered by the SNP who get £1000+ per head extra spending (that’s the oil money btw) so take up your grievance with them as it is they that are spending it instead of saving it.

  • realfish

    ‘And then he said: ‘The Tories say “they”. We say “us”. Labour: the party of hard-working people’’

    In which case Shapps’ poster would read:

    …To help hardworking people do more of the things us enjoy. Scans well, that.

    If Miliband want’s to see a master class in condescension he should look no further than his criticism of Shapps and his appropriation of the imagined hurt of the masses.

  • Richard Young

    This nonentity could make local MP Eric Joyce sober up,but no one else..Sticking up for the right of the people of Falkirk to puke with their MP in the gutter.WHY DON’T YOU LOT employ me to put the finger on the Scottish pulse.I know it all.Ho ho ho.

  • Tony_E

    English voters should listen to what he’s saying in Scotland – because that is the true face of Milibandism. That’s why is was so easy for him to satisfy the Scots audience and come across as authentic, because that was the real Miliband.

    • HookesLaw

      I think the interesting word quoted was ‘redistribution’. What he actually meant of course was ‘confiscation’.

      This is why labour do not know how to react to the pensions changes. Labour do not want the people to have any choices. Ideally they would not like any of ‘us’ to have any money of our own.

  • Kitty MLB

    Sput a – mach e , Silipede or Miibland.
    As some might say bitterly in Scotland- and a lot worse after a few cans of Irn bru.
    More like zombie walking dead of Labour ,made them drift into a trance and frankly
    if they listen to Labour they deserve to be in one.
    Send him into the centre of Glasgow on a Friday night, that might put some hair onto
    the fellows chest.

  • Mynydd

    “Miliband left with many in the audience with a feeling that he had only half performed” how do you know this? Asked them all did you?

    • anyfool

      If you listened to his inane musings, you would find that Hamish had over egged the pudding when stating he had half performed.

  • Angus_MacLellan

    Maybe his audience fell asleep with ennui.