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Tories won’t have liked it as much as they were hoping to

Posted on 28 September 2010 | 3:09pm

It is quite something to go from one full on campaign (the general election in May) into another (the Labour leadership election) and then within three days of your unexpected win make a hugely anticipated speech to Party and country. Ed Miliband did it very well.

I have seen close-up in four of his predecessors the agony of Conference speeches, and in their case they had weeks and months to work on them. Even if Ed had part of his mind on this moment in the past few months, most of his focus and energy will have been on the leadership election. He will be very happy his first big one is behind him.

In some ways it is to his advantage to be less known than most people who have become party leaders. Both his friends and his enemies, political and media, will try to portray him in the way that best suits them. But he can shape his own agenda and his own strategy, and there were plenty of signs as to how he intends to.

At this stage, general direction and positioning, and setting out for the public who he is, what he believes, what he wants for Party and country, is all that he really needs to be concerned with. He dealt well with the sense, a lot of it media-driven, that he wants to take Labour wildly off to the left. He did a fair bit of distancing from some parts of the New Labour record, notably Iraq, immigration, and the failure to sort out the bankers before they wreaked havoc, but he also did a very good job of setting out the scale of change made under TB and GB and why the party should be proud of it.

In an interview this morning, I was asked if I didn’t feel hurt at his seeming desire to distance from New Labour. The answer is No. I for one totally back his line that a new generation is now in charge, and that it has to apply new thinking and new ideas. He is right to be viewing his leadership through the prism of a desire for change, and challenging orthodoxy. I also hope he is taking time and care to build a strong team around him, again mainly of the new generation.

He showed a bit of steel in there by setting out a fairly hard line on strikes, to the clear televised dismay of union leaders. I liked too the way he said he would not go after Ken Clarke as being soft on crime or Teresa May as being soft on terrorism if they made changes he agreed with. I thought it was clever to ignore Nick Clegg and remind us all that the real enemy for Labour is the Tory Party, and clever too to say that while he may be around the same age as David Cameron, in terms of values he is of a different generation.

It was possible to see the nerves from time to time, and a few technical glitches too; but especially given the circumstances, I thought it was a strong and substantial speech which laid out some very interesting pointers. I would love to know how the mood was at Tory Central Office and in Downing Street, where Mr Cameron’s political staff will almost certainly have been watching. I don’t think they will have enjoyed it quite as much as they were hoping to.

  • Billy Blofeld

    Ed needed to go a lot further with the apologies……. especially on Iraq and the Economy.

    Otherwise he sounded like the Tories.


  • Paula McTernan

    I want a pound for every time he says ‘Let’s be honest’. You need to tell him people tend to think pols who say let’s be honest are about to tell a porkie … I thought he overdid the move to the centre but only really got going when he was being an old leftie. Not convinced

  • Hilary Marshall

    I thought the strain was showing a bit on his brother’s face, especially at the Iraq bit, and Alistair Darling looked very disdainful too. I can remember some of your old boss’s speech and the hair would be standing on my neck. Didn’t get none of that today. Sorry

    • L Barker

      It was an honest commanding speech people seem blind to the agenda of the broadcasters and the seismic and revoltingly biased political reporting at play in our country right now. Dear Hilary ‘who owns ITV news?”I bet you don’t know and neither does anyone else. Labour now needs smart people with integrity and lots of researchers to expose the endemic corruption in our ‘democracy’.

  • Phil Normington

    I found myself quite liking the speech as he made it, then not liking it at the end. Can you explain?

  • I disagree, Billy. You can’t spend your time grovelling about mistakes your party made in the past if you want to win an election in five years time.

  • Chas

    I saw Ed at two of the hustings and this was a very different sort of speech. It was more like the kind his brother made. Bit odd really but like you I will get behind him

  • Robert Jackson

    The thing about an apology is that once it is given in good grace – as Ed Miliband did today – the ball is back in the court of the recipient.

    So your comment says much more about you than perhaps you might wish.

  • He needs to stop saying “let me tell you this” or “I tell you”. It’s a bit strange using it in every other sentence.

    As a floating voter though I have deep reservations about the substance of Ed’s policies. Some of them are real canards.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Ideas should top Labour agenda.
    The Labour party is now in search of Big Idea. It is time to define what a 21st-century social democratic party looks like after financial, economic and environmental crisis.
    Anthony Crosland published The Future of Socialism in 1956. It is a seminal work for modern British left. His message was that traditional socialism had to adapt to modern circumstances.
    Labour needs the “vision thing” again.
    John Denham said in Fabian Review that Labour must change more than it realises. Labour must reconnect with South and C2 unskilled workers again.
    Labour was founded as a party for socialism, public ownership, intervention in the economy, the welfare state and redistribution of wealth.
    New Labour was created in the age when Francis Fukuyama pronounced the “end of history” meaning liberal democracy had won. But then came 9/11 and climate change.
    Labour should start its search with Tony Judt´s Ill Fares the Land. Mr Judt rejected the nihilistic individualism of the far right and the debunked socialism of the past.
    According to Will Hutton new capitalism must be based on fairness. The Reagan-Thatcher market fundamentalism culminated in financially-dominated globalisation triggering the recession of 2009-10.
    Neoliberalism led to social corrosion. We now need to build new, ecologically sustainable social democracy. Society must come before markets.
    Political fault lines in the new era cut across the party lines. Pro-market factions have lost all credibility. The task now is to transform the political centre ground.
    Ed Miliband has outlined his vision. He wants fairer, more equal and just Britain. He wants a society judged by quality of life.
    Britain needs a different approach to markets and state. State guarantees fairness and should shape market.
    Britain needs industrial policy, regulation and responsibility at the top of society. Markets should not be allowed to dictate decisions. Combination of state action and individual responsibility will improve people´s lives.

  • Sarah-dodds

    The only thing that matters is whether in 5 years time we can win the election with him – and I think we can. I voted David Miliband, and like all of his supporters was sad and disapointed when he lost. But I have been touched by not just David’s wonderful love and grace in defeat, but Ed’s lack of arrogance and the respect, admiration and warmth he has shown his brother. He is a work in progress and I was greatly encouraged by his speech. No, he is not his brother, or Tony Blair, or Gordon Brown, or Neil Kinnock (although I’m not sure that Neil Kinnock realises that!!) I agree that after the initial disapointment of my prefered candidate not winning and having a bit of a dummy-spit-out session Saturday into Sunday, I was encouraged by him today.
    Now lets all get to work.
    And I agree with him on one very key, but not political issue. Optimism is the name of the game. In life it effects how we learn, how we interact and make and keep friends. And it can even dramatically effect how we heal, and if we live or die when ill. So lets not talk him down right now, because if we do his leadership, and our chances of the Labour party recovering and winning again, are dead already.

  • s chapman

    You never fail to write such pompous rubbish – I’ve no idea what you do for a day job but your comments are from outer space and totally weird.The Labour party need to connect to real people,real working and middle class people not the political elite that you obviously crave to read your drivel.
    The recession of 2008-2009 (not 2009-2010) was created by easy unregulated credit,ignored by such deniers as Gordon Brown until too late.Social corrosion ( whatever that means ) was caused by random benefit handouts to anyone that asked – the 1m+ workers hired to presumably become a rent-an-electorate by New Labour are now staring redundancy in the face,some through direct fault of New Labour.However,the State does need to be rolled back as we will never have a better example ever in history that too much Government will ruin a nation….
    And Alastair even after a decent speech from the new leader of Labour, that said tribalism is dead you still very weirdly keep at it by saying the Tories are the enemy – there are no enemies you nutter – we have to talk,discuss and formulate ideas to make the UK emerge from this utter shitheap in better shape….

    • Teresa

      Try telling my 12 year old son they are not the enemy, when his sixty year old school is now not going to be rebuilt, and free swimming for pensioners and children at our local sports centre has already gone.

  • Jacquie R

    I arrived in Manchester on Sunday full of the joys at Ed’s election, but quickly came down to earth when I felt a general sense of disappointment. That changed today. His speech was electrifying and people who hadn’t voted for him were won over and bowled over.

    I hope that from now on the narrative will be less about Ed’s brother and more about his and our future.

  • vince cogently

    I’m guessing not as relieved as when they saw David Miliband’s speech on Monday. However, in five years time, Cameron and Clegg will have acquired even more of the gravitas that high office brings. On today’s performance, Ed Miliband does not look like he has substance.
    I’m frustrated that Labour appear not to have picked a potential election winner.
    PS: When is someone going to say to Vince Cable that the last few months have witnessed his transition from FDR to Homer Simpson?

  • Cerys

    Sorry, but I thought the speech was toe curlingly awful in places. Can’t see him winning over the floaters. David would have done much better; he has more credibility, more gravitas.

  • BlairSupporter

    Alastair- it was rubbush. Vacuous populist tripe.Going on about “values” as though the likes of Tony and Gordon and you never had any. And “new generational”?! What? With most activists and members being well over 50? His words on Iraq were disgraceful. I think they would have made David M’s mind up for him.

    I was not a Labour voter but when Tony Blair spoke he used to move and inspire me in so many ways. When will this stupid party understand that the ONLY real mistake Labour made was to shift their winner when he was at the top of his game? Labour has had it now, imho. There is literally no-one, now that DM is likely out of it, that will get the southern votes and seats back. I give it 2, maybe 3 years before you are looking for another leader and probably at least 10 before you get back into office.

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    The prig from the Upper Fifth repudiating,to their faces, at a Labour conference, the Blair ministers who had to make the tough decisions on Iraq.

    Overall, a disturbingly gormless performance from a leader who apparently believed he was being tough and hard headed. The unions should make short work of him if this keeps up.

  • Nicky

    Daily Fail columnist Andrew Pierce was a guest on Jeremy Vine’s programme (Monday), saying that Cameron was figuratively turning cartwheels at EM’s election as leader.

    However (as you say Alastair) it must be dawning on Cameron that he has fatally misjudged the situation. Ed’s speech was inspiring, drew a clear line under the past, showed a very astute maturity and placed him firmly on the centre left. Ed also shows every sign of a razor sharp intelligence and command of the facts, which may have Cameron fearing that his butt is going to be decisively kicked at PMQs.

    His butt is already getting kicked in the polls, BTW.

    As for Andrew Pierce, his latest column (which I’ve read so you don’t have risk your blood pressure) has dropped ‘Red Ed’ in favour of ‘Snooty Ed’ (!) because Ed wasn’t at a party where Ben Bradshaw was grooving the night away with a belly dancer. He’s also the one that had a go at the lovely Sally Bercow … just because she’s intelligent, funny, beautiful and with a great personality – why on earth would he resent that? (As Mrs Merton might say.)

  • Chris lancashire

    Mr Campbell, I certainly don’t share your political values but I do respect your political nous. And you know, right now, that Labour has elected a complete duffer. Now, at least respect your readers’ intelligence and I suggest the best thing you can do for Mr Milliband jr. is quietly move to another topic on your blog.

  • Paul Barker

    He seemed to say many of the right things…but I’m afraid it all came across as too slick and almost smug, from a new generation of professional pollies… all around the world we seem to be facing this political genealogy, and professional politicians whose world is the party corridors from school to high office; I’m sure the public (but perhaps not party insiders) would feel more comfortable with a few more craggy characters who’ve actually worked outside the closeted party offices and worked in the public sector, business, as volunteers etc, before thinking they can lead the country! Paul Barker (Inst of National Affairs, Papua New Guinea)

  • Nicksmegghead

    Over next few years Ed and the Labour party has to watch closely the right wing political commentators at the BBC (Nick Robinson and his cronies), ITV, Guardian ( Glover and Kettle), Murdoch’s press and the rest of the right wing media in how they portray Ed. The Tories has already started name calling.

    Alastair, why do still have the link on your Website to the Tory supporting Guardian?

  • Chapster24d

    The sixty year old school cant be rebuilt because we have no god damn money – what dont you get about that ???
    And swimming for the elderly and kids – whats that 2-3 quid a week – come off it – we are in a hole get real

  • Teresa

    I certainly get it, but I’m sure they will find money for the things that matter to them, but children have never been a priority for the Conservatives have they. Having three children it was just nice for them to have a free swim a couple of times a week, especially in the summer, believe it or not to do that now would be 84 quid a month, which is a big bill for me, and for all the tax I’ve paid in the last 15 years is was nice to get a little something back, and the pensioners loved it too, after paying tax for the best part of 50 years it was really nice for them, but the Conservatives don’t do nice do they.

  • Anonymous

    I hope I’m wrong, but at the moment I think Ed Miliband is the worst thing that has happened to the Labour Party since Michael Foot. He is awkward and self-concious and has no charisma whatsoever. I didn’t like the way he distanced himself from Tony Blair. This man won 3 terms in government for Labour. Iraq was a bit of a mistake but you have to look at the bigger picture on that decision. Labour won’t win the next election with Ed Miliband as leader. Sadly.

  • Tiirus_loonie

    Ken Clarke has just admitted they Tories have indeed put the recession at risk. He is trying to blame the global financial markets!! God what a cheek! The tories tried unfairly to blame Gordon for the crisis, Gordon got us out of the global downturn with some of the strongest jobs growth, GDP growth rates we have had for years. We had what was for all intents and purposes a strong sustainable recovery taking hold with strong employment growth, strong retail spending, a strong housing markets. All these appear now to have been put at risk by Tory incompetence and now they are trying to claim it was the global financial markets. If so why is India hiking interest rates, why are the ECB draining the money markets (so EONIA is going up) and why have all the Asian economies posted strong growth. Clarke is trying to get the story out in the press it was not us guv but those darn financial markets….WHY is not RED ED trying to attack the tories for this and get the truth out ASAP?