Alpha-male Ed, where have you been?

by Kevin Meagher

This was the speech Ed Miliband should have made in Manchester at the party conference a few weeks ago.

Actually, this was the speech Ed Miliband should have been making for the past four years.

This was the speech of a leader. He was good. Straight. Urgent. Passionate. And even authoritative too.

In fact, this was probably the best speech Ed Miliband has made.

Partly through what wasn’t in it.

There was no self-deprecating preamble or any of his weak jokes (his timing stinks).

Tellingly, there were none of his passive physical gestures either. You know, that upturned hand thing he does? (Although there were a few of those long blinks as his turns his head).

There was none of his abstract theorising. This seemed to be a speech written by a press officer rather than a policy wonk.

As for “together”, the anaemic theme of his conference speech, there was not a word.

And, blessedly, there were no more of those toe-curling tales of meeting people on Clapham Common.

This was alpha-male stuff. Black-coffee-and-three-shredded-wheat-for-breakfast-Ed.

He wisely abandoned the parlour trick of memorising his speech (which got him into so much trouble in Manchester when he forgot to mention immigration and the deficit).

What remained, was good; strong delivery and clear content.

His main theme was articulating the rampant inequality that scars Britain and explaining what he was going to do about it.

The “zero-zero” economy, as he put it, of zero hours contracts for those at the bottom of the pile and zero taxation from unaccountable corporates and the super-rich.

They were included among the nefarious “vested interests” – banks, energy companies and the filthy rich – whose “failed ideas” have held sway for too long.

He sounded for all the world like a mid-1970s Margaret Thatcher, railing against unresponsive elites.

Tacking them was essential to bringing about change. “When powerful forces try to tell me ‘no way’, I answer: ‘who says?’”

He argued that no force in our country “should be too powerful to be held to account.”

And after forgetting to mention them in his conference speech, there were sections on immigration and the deficit.

On the latter, he promised to bring it down “in a fair way.” But there was a wider point.

“Change” he said, “has to be about big reform, not about big spending.” He argued that you “can’t change the fundamentals of an economy” through spending alone “and we won’t have the money to do it anyway.”

He is teeing up the party for the difficult choices that lie ahead if Labour wins next May.

There was even a rare reference to the “wealth creators, not just the wealth distributors” in providing “good, private sector jobs at decent wages.”

On immigration, he said that it wasn’t enough to claim “immigration benefits our country as a whole.”

He argued that “a sense of fairness” meant wages shouldn’t be undercut through using foreign labour, while benefits should be conditional and learning English was essential in order to become “part of our society.”

UKIP came in for a battering, although there was no explicit attack on David Cameron or Nick Clegg. (Was this deliberate?)

Nigel Farage had, he said, “got away with it for too long.” Signalling a tougher approach, he said it was time “we had a debate about where they really stand.”

“They do have a vision” he said, “of the past.”

While recognising people “rightly feel a sense of loss about the past” the answer was not to “return to a more unequal, more unjust past.”

On the parlous state of British politics, he said the Tories have “no answers to the discontent people feel,” while UKIP were “wildly wrong”.

“And who knows what one can say about the Liberal Democrats?” he added. (Does this signal a reshuffling of attack priorities, mentioning them as an afterthought?)

Striking a confident tone he told the audience of party supporters that “we can take this lot apart and it is time we did.”

The next election will be won, he said, by convincing people “door to door. Street by street. Town by town.”

Today’s speech seemed a better precis of what Ed Miliband is about than pretty much anything he has written or said over the past four years.

Credit where credit is due, he can raise his game when he’s forced to.

But it shouldn’t take threats to his position to get him to do that.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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20 Responses to “Alpha-male Ed, where have you been?”

  1. paul barker says:

    Hang on, you think being an Alpha Male is a good thing ? His lack of Macho was about the only thing I liked about Ed.
    In any case this is the wrong answer to the wrong question, Ed was never the main problem anyway.

  2. Tafia says:

    Lets have a bit of reality shall we.

    Miliband should give up speeches – he just isn’t very good at it. He lacks credibility, emotion, passion, fire and is never convincing.

    Also the audience was all wrong – probably the only people in that audience on less than 20K were the students. For the audience to be believable it needs to be shelf stackers, office workers, call centre staff, cleaners, labourers, postal workers, van drivers, bus drivers, security guards, taxi drivers, care assistants, factory production operatives, forklift drivers, etc etc – predominantly people earning less than 20K (ie most of the workforce outside of London). The blue collar voters – the ones that Labour is supposed to represent over and above all others, all of the time, in every area.

    Whereas that audience was just middle class middle England plants – and I mean plants in all senses of the word.

    There is a post in here about him and Kinnock, As far as public speaking goes Miliband would need a very big ladder just to peer over Kinnock’s shoes.

    He’s a Labour leader the tories and SNP are lucky to have.

  3. swatantra says:

    No comment. Except that Kevin Meager is a crawler.

  4. Tafia says:

    I found it rather bemusing his going on about zero hour contracts, being as here in Wales his Valley’s branch joined forces with the tories and blocked a Plaid proposed ban on zero hour contracts in Wales not once but three times. ( ). Are we to take it then that he will now formally order them to support it on any fourth attempt? Or even take the lead on it?

    Then there was tax avoidance. We’ll say nothing about his family in that regard.

  5. Richard Gadsden says:

    I don’t appreciate the use of “straight” in this article; it seems homophobic to me.

  6. Dan says:

    “The “zero-zero” economy, as he put it, of zero hours contracts for those at the bottom of the pile and zero taxation from unaccountable corporates and the super-rich.”

    Except it’s bollocks I’m afraid. Zero hours contracts aren’t the norm (don’t get me wrong they should absolutely be some reform here) and the richest 1% pay 30% of the total tax take. The idea that Miliband is putting across – that the rich aren’t paying tax at all — is just populist tub-thumping.

    Also, and I can’t stress this enough, Milibands speech was awful. 3rd rate, cliche ridden drivel written by some insider hacks who think they’re all Sam from the West Wing. God only know why they keep giving him this dreck to read out, he’s far better with a conversational tone than this ‘Rule of Three’ blather.

  7. Rallan says:

    It was a forgettable speech.

  8. Landless Peasant says:

    “The next election will be won, he said, by convincing people “door to door. Street by street. Town by town.” ”

    Ok then, I’m waiting, because in the 18 years I’ve lived at my present address no one from Labour or any other Party has ever come canvassing or knocked on my door, or asked for my opinion, never mind my vote. Not once. Politicians don’t visit the poor socially deprived neighbourhoods unless they have a specific agenda in mind, such as IDS visiting the Easterhouse estate for example.

    “He argued that “a sense of fairness” meant wages shouldn’t be undercut through using foreign labour, while benefits should be conditional”

    I do not believe there is any evidence to show that foreign workers undercut wages. We have the Minimum Wage, and that’s what employers have to pay, no matter whether staff are British or Foreign. They can’t pay them less. As for Benefits being conditional, I completely disagree and on this point alone shall not be voting Labour. State Benefits are ours by Right. It is our money to begin with. The State has a responsibility and a duty of care to its citizens. The State owes us a living. Benefits should be UNCONDITIONAL. So Miliband, and Labour, can kiss my arse. I’m voting Green.

  9. Michael Worces says:

    I agree with Ed that the evidence is clear that immigration from the EU is economically beneficial, however the evidence is that the non-EU immigration is not beneficial mostly because there hasn’t been a quality threshold especially for immigration by marriage

    The new minimum income rule will improve the benefit to Britain and stop the sham marriages of non-EU with E Europeans who even fly in for the occasion. Ed should say a labour government would neither change this rule nor drop the marriage age to 16 as the last Labour government did. At the moment the silence on this issue is leaving Labour’s enemies to make the running on Labour’s policy.

  10. wg says:

    Tafia has it – Miliband is speaking to the converted; the same type of people as Mr Meagher himself.

    If there is one thing that is hated by the manual workers of this country it is the way in which a tier of bureaucracy, the Third Sector, has hoovered up our charities and civic bodies and turned them into an unelected and unaccountable power base.

    Mr Meagher and his friends are part of this clique and they are as alien to the workers of this country as Mr Miliband.

  11. Fred says:

    Who cares, one speech is nothing. Out of touch North London Marxist without a plan is all we need to know.

  12. swatantra says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on Ed’s underwhelming speech, but I think we need to reclaim words like ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ back from some of the communities that have commandeered them. Bring those words back into normal English language and usage, without fear of embarassment. ‘straight=line’, ‘gay=happy’ and ‘queer=odd’. Why did we allow the BNP and UKIP to wrap themselves around in the Union Flag, for example. Surely these communities can come up with their own new words, if not, lets throw it open to a competition.

  13. Landless Peasant says:

    Why hasn’t Miliband mentioned the glaring anomaly of the proliferation of Foodbanks in our Society? How can they be acceptable? Labour should be asking questions about why thousands of people in 21st Century Britain are forced to be reliant upon Charity, and should be publicly stating why this represents a total failure of the State. Miliband should pledge to increase State Benefits to the correct legal amount, and to abolish the cruel and ILLEGAL* Benefit Sanctions that leave people destitute and starving. But what has Ed said or done about it? Answer = a big fat nothing. Why then should I vote Labour? What are they offering me? Fuck all it seems, just more of the same, more ‘conditionality’, further ‘nudging’. Well he can fuck off. I won’t vote Labour until they get back to being proper Socialists, not Tory Lite aka Blue Labour.

    * Benefit Sanctions are a form of State Terrorism, banned by International Law;

    “action or threat of action intended to intimidate the public or a section of the public”

  14. Tafia says:

    I do not believe there is any evidence to show that foreign workers undercut wages. We have the Minimum Wage, and that’s what employers have to pay, no matter whether staff are British or Foreign.

    You don’t actually understand this at all do you. Even the pr-immigration report last week highlighted that it was depressing wages for the bottom 20%.

    I will give you an example from round here. meat packing factory. Made it’s entire workforce redundant and brought in a foreign workforce. General operatives were earing 2 quid above minimum, imported workforce General Operative earns NMW. Pay for thaty job depressed by 25%. Competitors immediately institue wage freezes so that within a couple of years their wages have ‘fallen to parity as well.

    Understand now? Would you like me to use a household name and world leader to show you how – by recruiting graduates from the Baltics on fixed 3 year contracts for less than 18K they are depressing graduate wage levels locally?

  15. james says:

    I heard Rachel Reeves say that `Labour gained 2,000 local councillors in the past two years`. These were mostly taken on false pretences by using `nightmare` leaflet playing on the public’s fears regarding austerity and the basic policies of the coalition: a mixture of cleverly stating the obvious so that people could vote labour as a projection of hope and change or on the back of protest votes.

    Sure, local councillors from all parties do important work and personal votes can be gained – yet on the big picture Labour were lying.

    We now know from Chris Leslie that `there will be no reversal of coalition cuts`. And if people want a protest vote they can vote UKIP or Green.

    If I look at my own area and see the `contribution` the new Labour cllrs are making (used to be LD) compared to my lib dem led authority one is effective in her own sort of `labourish` way, another is there because she has `energy` although I’m not sure it’s used to good effect and the other has moved to Independent.

    At the Town Hall they rant on about stuff without amending the budget or putting forward a budget of their own.

    So, I’m not sure what Ed Miliband was blathering on about. Or is he just in a bubble of his own like the labour cllrs in my area?

  16. BenM says:

    The Tory trolls whining about there not being enough zero hours contracts to justify zero-zero soundbite would remember there wasn’t enough evidence of decline to justify Cameron’s idiotic “Broken Britain” one either.

    They’re just slogans. Zero-zero is quite effective, it rides on top of the feeling, borne out by statistics, that this recovery is an abstract phenomemon for most ordinary people.

    And the more the Tories propagandise their underwhelming performance in government, the more people are suspicious of all the tractor stats that emanate from Osborne and his allies.

  17. Tafia says:

    BenM, Labour in Wales not only supports zero hour contracts, it forced many council employees to change to them. It even sided with the tories to stop a Plaid motion to ban them.

    They are even recruiting council employees on zero hour contracts as you read this – despite Miliband’s speech last week.

    So we’ll have none of this nonsense that Labour oppose them because it’s a blatant lie.

  18. Landless Peasant says:

    @ Tafia

    It is the National Minimum Wage to blame, as it was always too low. Increase it to £10 p/h and link it to GDP. There are millions of Brits working for Min. Wage too so it is incorrect to blame it all on foreign workers.

  19. Tafia says:

    And here’s another little titbit for you regarding zero hour contracts:-

    Under Labour zero hour contracts increased by 74% between 2004-2009.

    Currently, 62 Labour MPs are employing staff on zero hours contracts. (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority).

    In 2012/13 Labour councils employed nearly 23,000 people on zero-hour contracts.

    Although Miliband is not currently in a position to ban them, he is in a position to order his own MPs to cease the practice immediately, his own AMs & MSPs to cease the practice immediately, all Labour councils to cease the practice immediately. Unfortunately he can’t – to do so requires him to have a pair of balls and a backbone – not to mention the fact that they will all tell him to F off, many publicly.

  20. Tafia says:

    It is the National Minimum Wage to blame, as it was always too low. Increase it to £10 p/h and link it to GDP. There are millions of Brits working for Min. Wage too so it is incorrect to blame it all on foreign workers.

    So making staff redundant is and then hiring replacements on a lower wage is the fault of the minimum wage is it? No matter what level the minimum wage was, the indiginous meat operatives would still have been getting more because they were semi-skilled, and would still have been sacked and replaced with cheaper imported workers on your higher NMW precisely because they were cheaper. Business ALWAYS looks at the bottom line and will ALWAYS go for the cheaper option provided it’s of an acceptable skill/quality level. In fact they would be a very badly run business if they didn’t.

    And as for raising NMW to £10 and linking it to GDP, what else do you think will happen? initially tax credits will be reduced because it is set to income, meaning that huge swathes of the work force will actually be not one penny better off, and what happens if GDP falls? In addition it will fuel inflation, meaning that very quickly £10ph will have no more spending power than the NMW as it is now. And the most effective way of controlling inflation is? Reducing spending power – ie wage freezes.

    Increases in pay and pay levels have to be linked to productivity – that is one of the problems at the moment, our per capita productivity has fallen.

    Even Miliband and his pledge of £8ph by 2020 is a joke – at it’s current rate of rising it will be nearly £9 by 2020, so he would have to institute cuts to it to hold it to £8.

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