10 Jan 2012

Going Ed to Ed

Earlier at the Ed Miliband speech on the South Bank, the theme was: what does Labour do when there’s less money around? Ed M called it “a new approach” and a “change of approach.”

Why so late? The money ran out some time ago, as Liam Byrne helpfully pointed out to his successor at The Treasury in May 2010. He was making this speech now, Ed Miliband said, because the Coalition economic strategy has only recently comprehensively fallen off the rails and confirmed it won’t eliminate the structural deficit in this Parliament.

The implication is that Ed M might ever have been able to imagine wading back into power in 2015 after a perfectly performed deficit reduction plan and simply switching the tap back on again. The truth is Ed Balls has not wanted to get hung up on listing blood-curdling cuts Labour would bring in because he thinks it would distract from a clear line of attack he thinks he has on the Coalition just as their numbers and forecasts are seriously under-shooting. The other truth is that Ed Balls has repeatedly in private cautioned against a grand mea culpa for the last government’s alleged mistakes and Ed Miliband has himself decided against such a strategy. Both Eds have instead made carefully selective apologies.

How is Ed Miliband doing as Labour leader? Read more from Channel 4 News.

But that strategy has not been seroiusly shifting votes. So today was about moving away from it. “Whoever is the next Prime Minister,” Ed M said, “will still have a deficit to reduce, and will not have money to spend. Whoever governs after 2015 will have to find more savings.” He didn’t produce a beheaded white rabbit from the hat to show his bloody intent but contented himself with a plan to shift some of the burden of looking after the over-75s fuel bills from the state to the private sector. But sources close to him say that bloodier stuff could follow, maybe even a sally against some universal benefits (though he defended them when I asked him about them today).

After a tricky outing on the Today Programme, the speech itself was not a set-back moment … but you came away feeling he’ll have to stick to this strategy doggegdly now and provide real proof of intent soon.

Follow @garygibbonblog on Twitter

Tweets by @garygibbonblog