At our best when at our most optimistic about the future – Ed Miliband’s speech has makings of a strategy
Posted on 21 May 2011 | 9:05am
What with Twitter and superinjunctions (oh how the media love a story about the media) and the resurgence of Old Etonians in Who’s Who, there is no room for Ed Miliband on the front page of The Guardian.
There is not that much room on the comment pages either, a single column beneath a headline that appears to be as much about Cameron’s Tories as Miliband’s Labour.
All a bit of a pity because within the piece he has written are the beginnings of a strategy that could start to make serious inroads into the coalition.
It is inevitable that the coalition will dominate the political debate for now. They are the government. A coalition is a rarity, which makes them interesting. The media is giving them – particularly the Tory side of the fence – an easy ride. It is hard sometimes for Labour to get a hearing.
In those circumstances all you can do is keep working on the strategy, and keep putting it out there. Over time, people will hear, and listen.
Ed is right to point out that Labour cannot and must not offer only attack upon the policies of the coalition – needed and justified though these are. For the Party to reverse its fortunes they must always be making an offer for and about the future.
There is something dreadfully uninspiring and narrow about the government’s vision for Britain. They are running a programme founded essentially on an exaggeratedly negative view of what went before, a point Polly Toynbee makes in the column alongside Ed’s, where she takes apart the superficial analysis of current trendy ‘US guru’ David Brooks, who on the basis of a flying visit to flog a book has deemed The Big Society a success.
The Big Society is no clearer today than it was on the day Cameron dreamt it up to differentiate himself from Thatcher.
He didn’t win a majority because he had no clear vision for the future. In so far as he did, it was grounded in pessimism not optimism about Britain. Ed points out that when Labour had a clear sense of the future – 1945, 1964, 1997 – we did best. At our best when at our most optimistic about what Britiain can achieve. At our best when we have a real sense of national mission and purpose.
If Ed can now articulate arguments about the kind of future Britain needs, and with a tone of optimism because Britain has met so many challenges in the past, Labour will be better placed.
His article, which he is fleshing out in a speech to Progress today, does not contain specific policy proposals to meet the challenges of today. There is plenty of time for that. But a bit of hope among the core negativity of the coalition strategy, now with plenty of ministerial incompetence alongside and around it, will travel a fair distance at this stage of the Parliament.