I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by Ed Miliband’s speech to the Progress Annual Conference today, but neither did I expect to be quite so
underwhelmed. This was meant to be his Great Exposition of how, as he put it his introductory remarks, Labour "will win the next election". But what we got was a straighforward list of
some of the major themes of his leadership so far: the "squeezed middle," the prospects for young people, community breakdown, and so on and so forth. These are all worthwhile areas for
debate, but Miliband has dwelt on them before now, and more persuasively — such as in his speech to the Resolution Foundation in February. Repeating them may help make the point, but it
doesn’t mean that Labour have any solutions. The absence of policy specifics was especially noticeable today.
In fact, only the soundbites were particularly new. Miliband wrapped everything up in the banner of a "national mission". He attacked the Tories’ "maoist contempt" for certain
institutions. And, in the most voter-friendly section of the speech, he rattled through the public concerns that Labour were "too relaxed about," such as immigration and unchecked
welfarism. But by the time the Labour leader came to his conclusion — "we reject the defeatist mantra that ‘there is no alternative’" — you were still thinking: yeah, but
P.S. John Rentoul’s observations about Miliband’s argument on inequality are worth reading.