28 Sep 2010

Ed Miliband speech: he didn’t sink, he didn’t fly

A lot of Labour sacred cows were led to slaughter in Ed Miliband’s speech and one Blairite former Cabinet minister I just met said that was “unwise.”

When Ed Miliband said the war in Iraq was wrong his brother David didn’t clap. Others Blairites will have had their own pet hates.

The attack on New Labour’s establishment feel, its deregulation of the City, its tuition fees policy, its proclamations that boom and bust had finished, its complacency and ignorance about voters’ worries about immigration, its indifference to people getting filthy rich, its casual disregard for civil liberties including 90 day detention and mis-use of anti-terrorist laws, its following of the US anti-terror policy without proper regard for our own values … that’ll do for now!

Ed Miliband couched it all with some polite references to both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but the biggest challenge to the orthodoxy of New Labour was in this line: we must “make Labour a force that takes on established thinking, doesn’t succumb to it, speaks for the majority and shapes the centre ground of politics.”

Note he says shape the centre ground not occupy the centre ground. He won’t be deserting pollsters and focus groups (if he can afford them) but he does think there was too much working out the centre of gravity in British politics under New Labour not enough trying to shift the thing.

There were some tick-box lists of policies he feared omitting, there was no rhetorical zest but that probably wouldn’t have worked with his more conversational style. The jokes weren’t terrific but weren’t awful either. He didn’t sink, he didn’t fly.

But given that most of the people in the hall didn’t vote for him and were gasping on Saturday as the results came up on the screen, he turned some opinion in the room. The country will have to watch and see what he really means to do (if anything) about top salaries being too high. He thinks the Coalition will last 5 years and he has time to explain … but first impressions can be powerful and hard to shift.

He’ll hope he’s done enough today to combat some attempts to paint him as an extremist and keep voters’ minds open.

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7 reader comments

  1. merseymal says:

    Well didn’t vote for him as their first choice anyway ;-)

  2. les says:

    He was talking as if he had just joined the labour party and his “new generation” will be different.
    Has he had a labotomy? last time I looked he was at the heart of the last government – well in the bunker with Brown.

  3. mf77 says:

    Well, I thought he did brilliantly!
    An extraordinarily difficult thing to talk about the Labour legacy – the good and the bad – with the old as well as new guard present in conference hall. Obviously they won’t all like it. But I bet a lot do – and I bet a lot of the general public will too.
    No, he hasn’t yet got the oratory of an Obama (or a Blair) but I think we can give him time to develop there. I actually believe too that many people will like the fact he’s not overly-polished (also that he’s jargon-free) – and that he comes across as a thoughtful, nice, caring, decent, rounded chap with a vision and a determination to move forward.

  4. WTF? says:

    But didnt he vote for alll these things? And I thought he wrote the manifesto for the last government?

  5. Gill says:

    I’m waiting to see how he turns out. As an immediate thought, I was delighted at his comments about Iraq. There are many, many, many ex Labour voters who left the party or refused to vote for it because of the Iraq policy. We marched, we criticised, we finally deserted. It’s refreshing to see the whole New Labour thing turned on its head – there might be the potential here for people to return … but we’ll wait and see.

  6. Mudplugger says:

    Check out Ed’s voting record in the House. Quite interesting all those things he was happy to support through the voting lobbies but now seeks to disown.

    A slippery piece of work, that Mr Ed.

  7. Alexandr says:

    Observing of all peripetias of political beau monde. I want to note, what not the previous labourites, not today’s, cannot that or make or change a state of affairs, especially will cope with crisis. The system should be changed, but yet the sanitary technician who is capable to perform this work meanwhile was not born.

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