‘Red Ed is back,’ said the Daily Mirror’s Kevin Mcguire, and it’s a fair summary of today’s speech. He has pledged to use state power to force the hand of property companies: “use it or lose it” he said, reviving the idea of compulsory purchases. His new flagship policy is imposing a 20-month price freeze on domestic energy prices, ordering private companies around. He won a standing ovation when he pledged to reverse the Conservative (and Tony Blair) liberal reforms of the NHS. Now, you can say a lot about Ed Miliband’s shortcomings but you can’t call him vacuous. He now has an identifiable mission: to bring back ‘socialism’, as he pledged to do Sunday.
Today he told us about the fruits of this populist socialism: confiscating land, freezing energy bills until 2017, schools offering free extra childcare (paid for by bashing banks). It all amounts to a firm, left wing agenda that the audience in the hall loved. It’s popular – who’d object to free stuff, paid for by the deep pockets of profiteering companies? The sort of politics that Blair thought he’d buried. The kind of cost-of-living remedies we thought lay in the same shallow grave as Harold Wilson’s prices-and-incomes policy.
Lots of speeches made at conferences are inconsequential: not this one. Under Miliband, socialism is making something of a comeback in Westminster – a new, populist socialism rebooted by a surprisingly confident Labour leader. And as a result of today’s speech, the stakes at the next election have just risen considerably.
Listen to what Fraser Nelson, Isabel Hardman and James Forsyth made of Miliband speech