Some good lines uttered, some false notes struck, some bad luck sustained when the TV feed broke for five minutes mid-speech. But it still requires a generous leap of faith to conclude that Ed Miliband’s speech to Labour’s Liverpool conference will persuade wary voters that they have got him wrong and he is ready to be prime minister if the call comes soon.
While Caroline Crampton of Total Politics seems guardedly positive, albeit with a backhanded compliment or two:
Heavy on personal attacks (on Fred Goodwin, on Nick Clegg, on Rupert Murdoch), the speech contained a few cleverly-crafted lines, such as the idea of standing up for ‘producers not predators’ on the economy and the exultant question ‘how dare they say we’re all in it together?’ But overall, this wasn’t a speech we’re supposed to remember. This is a party and a leader dug in for the rest of the Parliament, determined not to blow any political capital they might have too early so that they can be in with a chance in 2015.
The Times’ instant summary (£) merely raises the obvious questions:
Miliband’s attacks on Cameron went down very well – especially on the NHS. There were a couple of neat digs at Nick Clegg too. But will the country get his New Bargain any more than it gets David Cameron’s Big Society? Mr Miliband was talking to two very distinct audiences today and it’s unclear whether those outside the conference hall will get him – assuming that they could actually see him on TV in the first place.
But Rachel Sylvester asks more pressing ones:
It was idealistic and ambitious. But how’s Mr Miliband going to bring about the “new bargain”? Is Labour really going to go back to picking winners in business? How can it separate the “predators” from the “producers” and ensure that only the “wealth creators” get their just rewards? Can the Labour leader really personally guarantee state school pupils a place at the university of their choice so long as they get the grades – as he promised in the speech? How will he end the “something-for-nothing” celebrity culture and the “take-what-you-can” of the gangs? Will having a worker on the board really end spiralling executive pay? How’s he going to create a benefits system that encourages people to “do the right thing”? “We need to change the way we do things,” Mr Miliband said. That may be true, but unless he explains how he’ll do it he risks looking naïve.
About the only group united in their response is the lunatic fringe of the Tory party. Take, for instance, Norman Tebbit. Under a headline Ed Miliband is a backwards looking socialist, he spends much of his piece picking apart turns of phrase:
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For one: “A Labour government will only spend what it can afford.” What ‘IT’ can afford!! The poor fellow seems not to know that governments do not have money of their own. It is a matter of not spending more than we taxpayers can afford. Sadly Ed Miliband, despite my hopes that he might have some ability to think for himself, has fallen straight into that same old socialist statist fallacy that has characterised Labour in the past.