Ed Miliband’s speech was a political sugar rush that will have minimal lasting impact

by Atul Hatwal

Last night Labour party conference was euphoric. Like a child that had just downed a can of full fat coke, the party was humming with nervous, happy energy. Across the bars and receptions the leader’s speech had energised conference.

It was certainly an assured performance. Ed Miliband looked relaxed and spoke in a way people could understand. No abstract flights of theoretical fancy or harping on about capitalism. His address was personal and defined by genuinely impressive delivery. To speak for an hour without notes, with the nation’s media waiting for any hint of a misstep, was a significant achievement.

But, for all the positivity, there was a problem: the content. Conference might have been swept away by the performance, and many journalists might have been similarly dazzled, but as the sugar rush subsides, what was the Labour leader actually saying?

There was no discernible over-arching narrative spanning the hour plus of his words. A “One Nation” motif, yes; a structured argument? No. Plenty of neat phrases yet nothing substantive in terms of policy. There was no detail to illustrate the broader points that would actually give the watching public any idea of what a Labour government would actually do.

Most importantly, the Labour leader didn’t address the fundamental problem that means the party is marginalised on the economy.

Based on this speech, the Miliband analysis is that recession and a rising deficit has almost neutralised the issue. The Tories have failed in their express mission – to reduce the deficit – and Labour’s narrative on growth will carry the day. A steady as she goes approach.

It is a critical misreading of the public mood.

Spending is what people are concerned about. They fear Labour will fritter away any returns from growth and take the country deeper into the depths of debt. They worry that our budgetary plans will be unaffordable.

This is why the Tories retain their lead on economic competence despite the double dip recession.

The ComRes poll in the Independent yesterday had Miliband and Balls 6% behind Cameron and Osborne on who was trusted to make the right decisions on the economy (24% to 30%), just as last Friday’s Ipsos Mori registered a 5% lead for the Tories on the economy (30% to 25%).

People have simply tuned Labour out of the economic debate.

On spending, there was talk of tough settlements in the speech, but this is just a process. There was no commitment to maintaining pay restraint or hard targets of any sort.

At the last election, the British people expressed their deep mistrust in Labour over spending and the economy. They didn’t believe what we said and turfed us out on our ear.

It takes time to rebuild trust. This is not the work of one speech or a couple of press releases, but years of effort.  In the 1990s, party polling showed that it took four years for the phrase “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime,” to be associated with Labour.

There are precious few opportunities for the Labour party to speak directly to the country. The leader’s speech is one of them.

For all of the merits of Ed Miliband’s speech as an act of performance, measured against the key political test of detoxifying Labour’s economic brand, the party is no further forward today than before Labour’s leader walked onto the stage yesterday.

Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut

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5 Responses to “Ed Miliband’s speech was a political sugar rush that will have minimal lasting impact”

  1. iain ker says:

    Yawn. I’m guessing that at least three times a week in the last two years someone’s posted on here

    ‘Ed’s finally found his voice’.

    ‘Thith ith who I am. Thomeone tha’ believeth in ‘One Nation’ tho pathiona’ely tha’ I menthioned i’ for’y-thickth timeth in my thpeech. Believeth in i’ tho pathiona’ely tha’ I’ve never uthed the two wordth conthecu’ively ever before in my entire life.

    ‘Thith ith who I am’.

    No it’s not who you are at all Ed. It’s who, between you and your advisers, you’ve decided to pretend to be for an hour of your life as you stroll about the stage (cf David Cameron) blinking and glo’ally stopping in a futile attempt to convince the electorate you’re someone you’re not and you’ve got ideas which you haven’t.

    Can anyone on here actually name a single Ed policy nomeneither.

    A great electoral asset.

    For the tories.

  2. uglyfatbloke says:

    Well…it was a polished ans assured performance, and it certainly went down well in the hall, but it did it tell us anything useful? Did it offset the damage Johann Lamont has done to the party’s prospects in Scotland? Pretty certainly not. That may not seem be of much significance now, but a lot of labour’s strength in Scotland has come from being seen as the party that would fight Tory cuts. If the SNP is seen as the best bet for defending Scotland from the conservatives there will be price at the next GE. If the gnats do as well then as they did at the last Holyrood election there will be a lot of Labour ex-MPs looking for new jobs along with almost all of the Scottish Glib-Dumbs who are currently polling at about 2% in Scotland; actually, in the north of England they are trailing one or two points behind the SNP which is pretty amusing.
    It’s al;l very well reaching out tot the Glib-Dumbs in case there needs to be a coalition in 2015, but there may not be enough of them to make the difference. If there are 25+ SNP MPs – which seems pretty likely at the moment – can Ed reach out to them? Difficult , because Scottish MPs would be furious,
    OTH Ed must know that the gnats cannot make a deal with the tories – their party constitution forbids it.

  3. aragon says:

    I agree Ardman Animation need to be complemented on their character coming out for motherhood and apple pie.

    As he referred to them as ‘Crackers’ (with Wensleydale cheese ?) I guess he won’t be pursuing my economic policy, which means that he will be following the Tory policies.

    What a Hobsons choice at the next election. (OK: Mortons Fork for the pedantic – No good option.)

    ‘Labours’ (rich kids club) economic policy that it is credible in been little different from the Tories (super rich kids club) with the same predictable outcomes. They will just be a little more pious, as they inflict the pain.

  4. Robert says:

    The next election will be a choice between a centre-right coalition and a centre-left Labour Party. Hopefully, that will motivate more people to vote than in the last three elections.

  5. swatantra says:

    Ed seems to have managed to break through the glass ceiling with his ‘amazing’ speech, although I heard it and didn’t think it all that special. It really annoys me that politicicians like Ed and Ed and Yvette etc, keep talking about ‘We would like to see this that and the other …’, of course any sensible person would like to see this that and the other…, but rarely do they actually say that they will bring in legislation to see that we get the this that and the other. Being 2 years from a General Election is no excuse; we need to be told now what Bold Labour will be doing to improve our lives.
    Ed M has at last silenced his critics including me,, so that must mean that we ae stuck with him for the next 2 years. I can now predict there will be no Leadership Challenge after his impressive’ performance. Ed was much more relaxed and we all loved his Q&A session, which seemed to me more meaningful useful and succesfull.

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