What we need to hear from Ed

by Kevin Meagher

Given the tumultuous events in Scotland, Ed Miliband can be forgiven if he’s already ripped-up several drafts of his leader’s speech as he still works out how to respond. But putting that to one side, what is today about? What do we need to hear from Ed and what should he be looking to get out of his annual address to his party?

Ed needs to galvanise the Labour tribe. After all, that is technically why we are all here this week. Yet there’s a flat feeling to this conference. While many express cautious optimism that Labour will win next May, the next conversation comes with predictions of electoral doom, as Lib Dem floaters return home and Cameron rallies. Ed needs to convey, if not vision, then optimism about next year and transmit a sense of confidence that his troops can buy into.

He needs to transcend the party and speak to the electorate at large. This is now the real purpose of a leader’s conference speech. For one day a year, the spotlight falls on the Labour leader, who is given an opportunity to try and set the political agenda, and, even more importantly, show us what kind of person he is. Dog breeders would call it temperament. And while you can train yourself to recite a speech without notes, (a skill that’s frankly lost on a television audience) being likeable and spontaneous is a tad more difficult. But that’s what most non-committed voters will be looking for. This conference, the last before the general election, is, essentially, a job interview for becoming prime minister. So no pressure then.

Show Labour gets the need for further devolution. Calling for a constitutional convention – hitherto Labour’s response to the Scottish devolution result and demands for similar moves for England – is all very well, but it lacks urgency. Ed needs to use his speech to set out the principles that will inform his approach in coming months. Positioning Labour against the ridiculous idea of an English parliament is a start, but Ed needs to go further today and set out the conceptual framework for how power is devolved in England. If he doesn’t, he risks letting Cameron frame the agenda in his conference speech. So is it regions, city regions, strengthened local government or something else?

Do something to address the issue around leadership and economic credibility. Although the party maintains a steady opinion poll lead, the deficits the party continues to run on leadership and economic credibility makes many nervous that the headline poll lead will hold water the closer we get to next May. Let’s be clear: this is a legacy that anyone leading the Labour party would face, but it is, ultimately, Ed Miliband’s problem to fix. And, to put it bluntly, nowhere near enough has been done over the last four years. No-one in their heart of hearts will truly believe the party is set to win next year until these gaps narrow.

If not vision, then optimism. Perhaps too much is now expected of these set-piece occasions. They have certainly become ritualistic. The usual platitudes will be made and the boxes ticked. But so much also depends on the tone of Ed’s speech. Will he convey that Labour is ready to govern, that lessons have been learned and that the party approaches next May with confidence and purpose? We’ll know by 3.30pm.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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24 Responses to “What we need to hear from Ed”

  1. Michael Taylor says:

    Simply calling the idea of an English parliament ‘ridiculous’ doesn’t make it so.

    What’s so ridiculous about the people to whom the laws apply being those who are allowed to vote on it.

    What’s so sensible about allowing MPs to vote on matters which can never affect their constituents?

    Really, I’ve got to ask: if democracy is good enough for the Scots, why is it suddenly ‘ridiculous’ and too good for the English.

    Genuinely, I’d like an explanation, because I really really don’t understand.

  2. Tafia says:

    Why is the odea of an English Parliament ridiculous? It’s no more or less ridiculous than a Scottish one, or Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. It’s just fair is all. Fair and Equal – ring any bells?

  3. Kevin Meagher says:

    Simply creating an English parliament in response to events in Scotland does not offer symmetry. England is far more diverse with 10 times the population of Scotland.

    What we need is a settlement that pushes power out of London and down to localities. This might mean empowering England’s regions. It might mean developing city-regions. It could mean radically strengthening local authorities to do far more, or it might result in a combination of all of these.

    An English Parliament does nothing to provide devolution of power, accountability or decision-making. It’s an emotional spasm, a kneejerk response to Scottish devolution that offers nothing to the north of England or the Midlands, who are crying out to run more of their own affairs.

  4. bob says:

    Interesting on BBC Daily Politics conference special. Caroline Flint nailed down by Andrew Neil about mansion tax. It will only apply in England not Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Rachael Reaves skewered by Nick Ferrari on LBC, so called pensions minister who does not know the level of the old age pension, you could not buy such incompetence.

    Balls repudiating his former master as well. Remember Labour only brought in the 50% tax rate in the last 6 months of the last government, so their wittering about tax cuts for millionaires is fatuous.

  5. Madasafish says:

    Ed needs to go further today and set out the conceptual framework for how power is devolved in England.

    Be careful what you wish for. If devolution means devolving tax and spend powers to the cities and regions of England, that will – in theory – mean London can decide not to subsidise the rest of England.

    Bang goes the Barnett formula and most Northern constituencies economies..

    I really don’t think you guys has sat down and thought out what the words mean when you write them down…and their implications.

    A system of cross subsidisation of poorer areas by richer cannot work under a fully devolved system – unless the rich areas agree. If I were a Londoner, I’d rather have cheap fares than support Scotland or Wales or some Labour constituency.

    You are opening Pandora’s box without thinking through teh consequences – Look how well Devo Max is going for Scotland.

    I despair…

  6. Ex labour says:

    @ Michael Taylor

    Simples – Labour, the so called party of democracy, do not want English democracy because it means they are effectively dead in the water, after years of reliance on their Scottish MP’s to win a vote for or against legislation.

    Also you would think that lessons from Scotland would be learned as many deserted Labour come the hour.

    They are now is self preservation mode rubbishing English democracy at every opportunity.

  7. Landless Peasant says:

    We also need to hear from Ed whether or not he will abolish the cruel Benefit Sanctions that are the greatest cause of poverty in UK today, and if he will increase JSA to the correct legal level. This is crucial to my vote. If I don’t get answers I’ll vote Green.

  8. paul barker says:

    I see Milliband completely forgot the bit about the Defecit, if you are Labour its so easy to do that, isnt it ?

  9. John Reid says:

    Michael Taylor, ex labour and Paul Barker well said

  10. Ex Labour says:

    @ Kevin Meagher

    Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.

    This latest wheeze of devolved power to the cities and regions is a blatent attempt by Labour to keep hold of power by trying to push it down to local councils. This is just dstraction politics, because you know a backlash is coming from the English and Cameron has out flanked you. In one sweep he has put Labour on a downward spiral and cut the legs off UKIP to a certain extent.

    As for local power, why didnt the North East, a Labour heartland vote against it if its so good ? Also as has been pointed out London subsidises most regions of the UK, so what happens if Boris tells us to get lost ? Or are you hoping hapless Lammy will ride to the rescue ?

    Labour is rubbishing the English votes idea because you will be forever in opposition. Moribunds idea of a national convention is pitiful and shows just how out of touch with the Englih electorate he is.

  11. Ex Labour says:


    Sorry that should have said “why DID the North East…”

  12. Rallan says:

    England is a country. If the other countries of the UK have parliaments then so must England. There is nothing ridiculous about that. But hey, if you think positioning Labour as the anti England party will work for you, go right ahead.

    Meantime, Ed Miliband gave his big speech without mentioning the deficit or immigration. Apparently he simply forgot the deficit, and had nothing to say about immigration. Remind me, what are the top two public concerns?

    Still he did talk about his new mansion tax. He forgot to mention that it would only apply to England, though. Never mind, I’m sure no one will notice. Right?

  13. Michael Taylor says:

    @ Kevin Meagher.

    Your reply offers no hint as to why English voters voting for English laws is ‘ridiculous’. Rather, it simply doubles down on the insults: ‘an emotional spasm’ and ‘a kneejerk response’. This is not argument, it is bludgeoning by cliche. It is ‘shut up, he explained’.

    I also think you need to provide some sort of evidence that the North is ‘crying out’ for devolution. I was born, live and work in the North, and I have noticed no such demand – ever. In the one case where it was offered (the Northeast), such devolution was dismissed by a margin of about four to one. What you offer is a solution looking for a problem.

    It leaves Labour open to the charge that it thinks democracy is simply too precious to be allowed for the English.

    I should add that this is a historic betrayal of what was once Labour’s purpose – the enfranchisement of ordinary people.

  14. Madasafish says:

    Well the writers at the Guardian and the Independent are strangely unimpressed..but then they tend to live in the real world.

  15. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Will Welsh Labour’s decision to go into coalition with Plaid Cymru come back to haunt them?

    According to a new poll for BBC Wales, carried out for the Week in Week Out programme, just 3% wanted Wales to be independent. That equates roughly to the population of Anglesey.

    If Welsh Labour ever thought of going into coalition with Nationalist Plaid Cymru again, traditional Labour voters may see their only alternative as Ukip.

    The English are paying for an Assembly in Wales already why would they want to pay for another one? There is a deficit to be payed off, lets all pull together and tackle the problem.

  16. Landless Peasant says:

    But Miliband doesn’t speak to the electorate at large. He speaks only to “those in work”, “hard working families”, to whom he will “reward hard work” etc. What about those of us not in work? What do we get? More bullying, more threats, more sanctions, more starvation, more deaths. Fuck off Miliband.

  17. Kevin Meagher says:

    This might cause a few of you to hyperventilate. Hope so:

    Englishness? Whimsy and Billy Bragg songs. Look local instead: http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2012/06/14/englishness-whimsy-and-billy-bragg-songs-look-local-instead/

  18. Tafia says:

    Mr Akira Origami – The move to independence comes through the demand for greater devolution. Giving more devolution leads to demands for even more and one day the only thing left to ask for is independence.

    In 1979 less than 10% of Scots wanted independence. Would you care to bet your house and pension that within 10 years they will be voting again and next time Yes will win?

    The SNPs growth in membership over the past week has been nothing short of phenonemal and they are now the third largest party in the UK bettered only by Labour and the tories – which isn’t bad for a regional party.

  19. Mr Akira Origami says:

    I look forward to next independence referendum. The next one should be even more entertaining.

  20. Tafia says:

    You also failed to point out that the BBC poll gave a total of six choices of answer and that 52% opted for a minimum of more devolution, leaving 48% covering the entire range from stay the same, less devolution, scrap devolution or don’t know.

    Now have a little think. Back in 1979 when less than 10% of Scots supported independence, did you think that by 2014, with less than 20% supporting it at the start of the campaign, that the final tally would be 45%? And that the price of stopping them is the promise of virtually home rule? (And remember, Ireland initially didn’t want independence but once they got home rule the desire for more control over their own future finally led to independence very very quickly. Their population is about half of Scotland’s and only a million more than Wales)

    It’s one step at a time. And devolution breeds the desire for more devolution, then more devolution.

    Wales (and Northern Ireland) even today are not as devolved as the Scots were at the start of this back in 97/98. But they want to be – and more. And they will be. Drip, drip, drip, drip.

  21. Mr Akira Origami says:


    Like the money the English are given in aid to Wales.

    What you say, sounds like Welsh mafia extorting money out of the English using independence as a threat.

    It would be better to give the money to the North-East of England. I can’t imagine Newcastle threatening independence with their proud Premiership club.

    Are you a rugby fan by any chance?

  22. Landless Peasant says:

    How about an Unconditional Guaranteed Basic Income for all Citizens? Shall we be hearing that from Ed Miliband any time soon?

  23. Landless Peasant says:

    This is what we need to hear from Ed:


    Why isn’t he saying this?

  24. Landless Peasant says:

    “What we need to hear from Ed”

    A pledge to NEVER employ or use the dubious services of Lord Freud in any future Labour Government.

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