Was Ed’s Big Speech worth the
"http://twitter.com/#!/frasernels/statuses/156700850117545985">extended wait? Not really. It wasn’t a stone-cold terrible speech, but neither was it the rambunctious, attention-grabbing number
that his leadership could do with. In fact, we could have saved ourselves the effort by simply reading "http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7530283/milibands-new-year-message-the-same-but-different.thtml">his New Year’s message again. That was considerably shorter, and covered almost all of
the same ground. Squeezed middle? Check. Tackling vested interests? Check. An admission that Labour will need to cut? Ch… oh, you get the point.
The best that could be said about today’s speech is that it presented some of these arguments more clearly than in the past. Indeed, the attack on George Osborne’s fiscal agenda was, by Miliband’s
usual standards, particularly punchy. And it teed up the Labour leader for what was perhaps his strongest point: that, contra what the coalition have previously suggested, the next government will
inherit a deficit. ‘Whoever governs after 2015,’ he stressed, ‘will have to find more savings.’
But, sadly for Labour, these moments of clarity were surrounded by the usual fog.
Even putting aside the sheer effrontery of Miliband moaning about the next government’s fiscal inheritance, his points were sometimes hard to swallow. Here he was, once again, complaining that the
coalition is going ‘too far, too fast’ on the deficit, while also trying to sound, erm, more like the coalition on the deficit. It would take a skilled political communicator to merge
those two positions as well as they can be merged. Miliband is not a skilled political communicator.
And he’s still not helping himself by having such a insubstantial policy offering. Jim Murphy last week
"http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7552563/murphy-sets-labours-new-strategy-arolling.thtml">demonstrated how specifics can support wider arguments — and although Miliband tried
something similar here, there just wasn’t enough of it. All we really found out is that Labour would limit rail fare increases for ‘every regulated train fare, not just the routes fewer
people use’, and that they’d pressurise energy companies into giving ‘pensioners over seventy-five the lowest tariff on offer.’
And, worse, in those areas where he hinted at a policy, it often sounded more like a surrender. So would Miliband
"http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7542723/byrne-offers-something-for-something-but-what-does-it-mean.thtml">do the bold thing and limit universal benefits to those who need them the most?
Nope: ‘The Government has already cut the Winter Fuel Allowance so that it provides less support. That cut may be something we cannot reverse.’ Has he learnt the lesson that gleaming,
new school buildings don’t equate to gleaming, new standards? No again: ‘Ask the parents who drop their kids off every day at the schools we transformed.’
Little wonder that Labour were keen to downplay the ‘relaunch’ hype. Because, intended or not, this was nothing of the sort. Instead it was predictable and it was mundane. Indeed, in a
roundabout way, the BBC actually had it right when they trailed a ‘David Miliband speech’ beforehand. Ed Miliband may have beaten his elder brother to the leadership, but he’s still
failing to capture the imagination.