Ed Miliband has wasted little time in returning to speaking duties in the House of Commons. George Osborne came to the Chamber to announce £4.5bn of savings – made up of £3bn from non-protected departmental Budgets and £1.5bn from asset sales, including the disposal of the government’s remaining 30 per cent stake in the Royal Mail – and Miliband was in place to hear him. Once Osborne’s duel with the new shadow chancellor Chris Leslie was over, Miliband rose to speak.
Unlike when he was leader of the opposition, Miliband was heard in respectful silence — Tory backbenchers, perhaps, took their cue from Osborne who declared that Miliband had earned the ‘respect of the House’ by turning up to the debate. Miliband began with an amusing anecdote about how his eldest son had remarked to him that they would be alright if there was a fire as the Fire Brigade would recognise that the former Labour leader ‘used to be famous’ and come quickly. But it wasn’t long before Miliband was back to his long-standing political cause, inequality.
Miliband called in-work poverty ‘the scourge of our time’ and said that left and right should both be able to agree that if you work, you shouldn’t be in poverty. But, as so often with Miliband, while the diagnosis of the problem was clear, the solution to it was not so.
But Miliband clearly intends to be a player in this parliament. Those on his own side hoping that he might disappear off into the sunset, will be disappointed — I also suspect that a politically active Ed Miliband puts paid to any prospect of a David Miliband come back.
Yet, in an era when the House of Commons has lost so much experience, Miliband’s decision to continue as an active member of it is to be welcomed.