Labour will launch its summer campaign later today. The centre-piece is Ed Miliband’s speech. He will present a ‘big choice’ to the British public, arguing that they cannot afford 5 more years of Conservative rule. Miliband’s argument is simple: the economy is broken, only we can fix it; the NHS is threatened, only we can save it; the Tories represent the few, only we care for the many.
You will have heard these mantras many times before; but, this time, the presentation is different. The speech bears the mark of David Axelrod, who is busy ‘reframing’ Ed Miliband as an honest yeoman of the shires rather than a metropolitan oddball. Rafael Behr of the Guardian has an extensive account of this ‘reframing’ effort. To summarise; Miliband has to empathise with the common man because this is his one advantage over snooty David Cameron. Justine Thornton, Mr Miliband’s brilliant but unassuming spouse, has been on the campaign trail this week spreading the good news about Ed.
Despite the still audible reservations about Miliband’s leadership, the shadow cabinet is putting aside childish things to concentrate its efforts for him; a dozen of them will deliver speeches throughout August. Not everyone is on board: Ed Balls has a piece in the Guardian which fails to mention Miliband. But you get the picture.
Yet this endeavour is not taking place in a vacuum. The latest figures from the IMF show that Britain is among the fastest growing economies on the planet, including developing economies. There’s more good news this morning: RBS has announced profits of £2.6bn for the first half this year. The bank cited rapid growth in the UK economy as a cause for its marked performance after years of catastrophe. The Tories are crowing about the success of their ‘long-term economic plan’.
These facts make Labour’s task doubly difficult because it limits the force of its argument on the economy. But there is an opportunity for Labour to turn the latest figures to its advantage. GDP has outgrown its pre-crisis peak; but, GDP per capita remains below par. Wages, meanwhile, are stubbornly flat. This helps Labour. But that help is not indefinite. The Institute of Directors is the latest business organisation to report that a majority of employers expect wages to rise, at least in line with inflation, over the next year.
While the economy continues to go ‘gangbusters’, the Tories will thwart the ‘reframing’ of Ed Miliband. CCHQ’s attack dogs will paint Miliband as an incompetent geek who wrecked the economy in 2007, was wrong about the recovery and is a threat to your future. A less cruel version of that demolition would be: Ed’s heart is in the right place, what about his head?