Politics just got more interesting. Ed Miliband’s speech today showed why the Labour party picked him for the leadership and not his brother. It tied his background to his political project, crafting a secular version of tikkun olam in a powerful fusion of biography, populism and political clothes-stealing.
‘One nation Labour’ is Miliband’s new political project. It is a deliberate attempt to steal this label from the Tories, to claim that the 50p tax cut shows they are now the party of rich. Miliband’s talk of David Cameron writing £40,000 cheques to millionaires might be factually dubious in the extreme. But it is politically potent.
Perhaps, the most important thing about the speech, though, was that Miliband looked comfortable and confident. Freed from the constraints of the podium, he connected with the audience in the hall and — I suspect — when people see the clips on the news tonight, they’ll at least begin to revise their opinion of him.
Miliband’s rhetorical bid for the centre continued with his direct appeal to those who had voted for Cameron in 2010. While his denunciation of the current government as a ‘miserable shower’ might be a bit rich coming from a member of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet, it will strike a chord with the electorate given the U-turns and the anti-politics mood.
Policy-wise, there wasn’t much more than we heard last night. On fiscal responsibility, he kept it vague saying the next Labour government would only be able to give the public services ‘tough settlements’ that will make things ‘harder for those who use them and for those who work in them’.
This speech, though, was about introducing Ed Miliband to the country and it certainly served that purpose: the line that ‘Britain has given my family everything’ had its own emotional power. One might carp that this was the speech he should have delivered last year and that he is still travelling light on policy. But he now has a political project and a frame for every argument he wants to make. Just as importantly, he has shown that he is not to be underestimated.Tags: Ed Miliband, Labour, Labour conference 2012, UK politics