Posts Tagged ‘leader’s speech’

Ed’s speech needed to change the political weather. It didn’t

24/09/2014, 12:53:19 PM

by Rob Marchant

23 September, 2014: the culmination of four years as leader. Milliband’s last major pitch to lead the country, for this parliament at least.

From now, time can only tell whether it has been the gateway to a whole new vista of politics for Miliband and the keys to No. 10; an attempt to convince his party that he would be still the best option after a narrow defeat; or some kind of a swansong.

Now, the central message of the speech is one which resonates – with the Tories, you’re on your own. The many not the few. We all believe in that, it’s what makes us Labour. And Miliband rightly points up the transparent makeover that David Cameron made of his party, in order to get elected, only to be swiftly ditched shortly thereafter. Good attack lines.

The question is, of course, with eight months to a general election, whether we are perceived as offering a credible, viable alternative. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Presentationally, the decision to offer a ten-year plan, while admirably long-term thinking, seems a tactical error (at least we might thank our lucky stars it was not a five-year plan, although the echo of Chairman Mao was still enough to please the headline-writers).

And let’s be honest: after four years, the “I met this guy” format is starting to look a little tired. As the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow put it: “if I were David Cameron’s speechwriter, I would already be working up a passage for Cameron’s conference speech about how Labour policy is now being decided…by whichever stranger Miliband happens to meet in his local park.”

But these are quibbles. It is the meat we need to evaluate.

To start with, it was telling that the centerpiece of the speech is a conversation with a former Lib Dem voter. Worryingly, whether or not we believe in the existence of the fabled “35% strategy” of attracting former Lib Dem voters, we certainly still seem to be aiming for the Lib-Dems-plus-a-few-other-odds-and-sods strategy, a patchwork quilt of support from different interest groups.

And we can see it in the speech – there is a nod to practically everyone. While some of this is normal in a conference speech, here it veered towards the extreme: the gay vote, pro-Europe liberals, public service workers, boxes were being ticked for parcels of leftish voters in every other sentence. To ensure we don’t lose either Muslim or Jewish voters, dammit, the man is even going to bring peace between Israel and Palestine.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Spotted at conference: Who is the mystery replacement leader?

23/09/2014, 11:45:27 AM

IMG_1479 (2)

We knew times were tough for Ed, but does the party machine know something we don’t? Just who is the replacement leader?


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Forget the swingers. Miliband is staking all on his core vote strategy

25/09/2013, 04:07:18 PM

by Ben Mitchell

You have to admire Ed Miliband. Most would be desperate to rid themselves of the “Red Ed” tag. He seems to take it in his stride. In fact, I think he quite likes it. Being to the left of the public doesn’t seem to faze him. It spurs him on. The public don’t know what’s good for them. He’ll drag them to his way of thinking even if it kills him.

Before his speech, I did my usual “10 things I hope to hear” on Twitter bit. Two were answered. Partly. Number 1: to spell out how he’d help people struggling with the cost of living. And number 9: “two shamefully populist policies.”  I got half my wish on this one.

Whatever the energy companies say, however loudly they protest (the “unreliable witnesses” as Ed has called them), this one will be warmly welcomed by all voters. Whether it stands up in the face of scrutiny, time will tell. We should know once the Tory attack dogs are out in force and the PM’s had his go at conference.

The second – lowering the voting age – reeks of pub politics. A few pals get together down their local and thrash out some raw ideas about how they intend to capture the youth vote. This probably makes most people’s top five. Personally, I’m undecided on this issue, but if pushed, would say that 16 just seems too young to be allowed to vote. Yes, you can die for your country, but only with parental consent.

I was at conference last year (my first) and thought Ed delivered a quite brilliant speech. His attacks on the coalition were down to a tee. I watched this year’s online, and in order to ensure any opinions weren’t polluted by minute by minute commentary on Twitter, turned all social media off. Without having time to gauge the politicos instant reactions, my first thoughts were that the Ed I saw last year was an Ed at the peak of his powers. This year’s was an excellent performance: accomplished, smooth, self-deprecating (something Ed is very good at), but one for the activists.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Today the Tories are happy. That’s all you need to know about Ed’s speech.

25/09/2013, 12:08:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

And so it begins. Last night’s doubts about the leader’s speech, widely expressed in the bars and receptions of Labour conference, are crystallising into a genuine fear on what happens next for Labour. The newspaper headlines were appalling, the party is on the defensive and the Tories are jubilant.

In his address to Labour party conference, Ed Miliband answered the widespread pleas for policy substance with two eye catching announcements – a two year price freeze on energy prices from 2015 and a target to build 200,000 homes. Both were well received in the hall, but are unravelling at an alarming pace.

The urge to act in a clear and unequivocal way on energy prices is understandable. It hardly bears repetition that soaring energy bills are an enormous problem for households. But at the moment the public don’t believe that either the Tories or Labour will do anything to help.

Polling conducted for Labour Uncut by YouGov shows that voters narrowly place greater trust in Ed Miliband and Labour over David Cameron and the Tories, to keep gas and electricity prices down, by 21% to 15%. However, the majority – 51% – trust neither to help with these bills.

In this context, a firm pledge to freeze prices will likely persuade sceptical voters that Labour will take effective action.

But, it is a big step to impose price controls even for a limited period. Such a move is redolent of the prices policies of the 1970s Labour government and has sparked another argument with business.

The public might be supportive of a price freeze that punishes unpopular energy companies, yet equally wary of a party that is happy to intervene so heavily in the market and fearful of the threats of blackouts.

In the 2005 election, the Tories found that although voters liked their punitive rhetoric on immigration, it validated Labour’s broader charges that the Tories were a hard-right party who would merrily privatise the NHS and cut benefits for pensioners.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Cameron breaches Labour’s Maginot line

10/10/2012, 03:10:56 PM

by David Talbot

The battle lines for 2015 have begun to be drawn. As Labour’s foot soldiers marched to the beat towards the feted middle ground last week in Manchester, its gun batteries trained their aim onto unfamiliar territory with audacious talk of a Labour “one nation” prime minister. The Tories, retreating in disarray, have receded to their ideological redoubt, and Labour skirmishers have at last engaged with hostile middle England in a first serious advance on the mission to Downing Street.

Or so the Labour hierarchy would have you believe. But they have made a serious tactical error.

The infamous Maginot Line was a fortified defensive line built by the French to protect the Franco-German border. It was a formidable defensive structure, and a feat of military engineering and strategising far beyond the era in which it was built. It lies between 12 to 16 miles in depth and stretched from the Swiss Alps in the south to the Channel in the north. The defensive structure was completed after ten years, just before the outbreak of war, and is estimated in today’s money to have cost the equivalent of nearly €50 trillion.

This is the comparable psychological position the Labour party are now staking their ground upon. The party’s grey beards have assumed that, much like the French army, the Conservatives would become unsteady under fire and surrender without trace when grapeshot thinned the lines. This is a first-class misjudgement. The Conservatives are headed through the Ardennes.

Miliband stole the Tories’ one-nation clothes precisely because David Cameron had forgotten to look after them. The Labour leader was executing a classic New Labour move straight from the Tony Blair’s playbook. But unlike the Blair years the Tories will not move ever-rightwards to placate the rabid tenancy and pander to their core. Cameron, frankly, is far too astute for that. Revitalising the “compassionate conservative” model that launched his leadership some seven years ago, the Conservative leader resolutely refused to fall into Labour’s lazy caricature. Moreover, he fought back and punched through Labour’s lines. Tough language on Labour’s Achilles heel – the deficit – will cut through to the nation’s conscience far more than any high-minded seminar on a 19th century Disraelian ideal.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

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

03/10/2012, 11:17:52 AM

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.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Advice for Ed: Ed needs to get in touch with his inner red neck

02/10/2012, 11:36:43 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Raymond Geuss – writing, incidentally, in a book with a cover so starkly evocative that it is almost worth buying for the cover alone – is right about one thing:

“Politics is a craft or a skill, and ought precisely not to be analysed, as Plato’s Socrates assumes, as the mastery of a set of principles or theories. This does not imply that political agents do not use theories. Rather, part of their skill depends on being able to choose skilfully which models of reality to use in a certain context, and to take account of the ways in which various theories are limited and ways in which they are useful or fail. The successful exercise of this skill is often called ‘political judgment’.”

He is, however, wrong about another:

“Any society has a tendency to try to mobilise human inertia in order to protect itself as much as possible from radical change, and one main way in which this can be done is through the effort to impose the requirement of ‘positivity’ or ‘constructiveness’ on potential critics: you can’t criticise the police system, the system of labour law, the organisation of health services, etc., unless you have a completely elaborated, positive alternative to propose. I reject this line of argument completely.”

This might suffice for agitators and academics, but not, ultimately, for someone who wishes to succeed in becoming prime minister.

What this series of blogs have offered are interpretations of theory, what Ed Miliband needs to make the most of party conference is political judgment. Nonetheless, theory, and the policy conclusions to which this theory leads, should be mastered by aspirant prime ministers.

It might seem absurd that someone could ascend to the highest office in the UK without deep reflection upon the country that they will lead, the theory that provides their lodestars and the point on the horizon where this country and these lodestars might meet. Oddly enough, though, the current occupant and arguably every prime minister since Thatcher has not really known why they were there, at least not when they first arrived in Downing Street. Even Thatcherism, as I’ve heard Lord Stewart Wood say at seminars, acquired coherence in retrospect that it did not have in 1979.

Miliband has grey matter to rival all these prime ministers. But it would be delusional to conclude that the lacking of animating mission displayed by these prime ministers is a consequence of their stupidity (though, it may partly be a consequence of them spending more time sharpening their elbows than thinking). What this recent history tells us is that it is a tough job devising and implementing a national mission.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Advice for Ed: Ed must use this week to exorcise three ghosts

01/10/2012, 07:00:04 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Helpful chaps those Conservatives.

The Populus opinion poll they conveniently published yesterday, (and which the media dutifully reported), exposes the essential weaknesses that lie behind the double-digit poll leads we have become used to seeing these past few months.

However opportunistic the timing, the findings (in line with other polls) will give Labour strategists sleepless nights.

Two thirds of voters say Labour should have elected David Miliband as party leader in 2010, while 56 per cent of Labour voters agree.

64 per cent of swing voters say they would be “more likely to vote Labour’” if the part “‘had a stronger leader than Ed Miliband” with four out of five believing he is not “prime ministerial.”

Meanwhile 72 per cent of all voters believe “Labour need to apologise for the part they played in causing Britain’s current economic problems before people will trust them again on the economy.” This rises to 81 per cent of undecided voters.

Despite the provenance of this research, the findings brutally expose the three inter-related problems that dog Ed Miliband this week: lingering comparisons with his brother, doubts about his personal qualities and the legacy of the last Labour government.

Starting with the first, there is little more David Miliband could have done to plough his own furrow since he lost to his sibling in that same Manchester conference hall two years ago. He has kept his own counsel and carved out a new, discreet role for himself. There is little either brother can do to address this unhelpful comparison, (or to stop broadcasters repeatedly mixing them up).

The second problem, however, Ed’s personal qualities, is a matter for the man himself to address. It is not enough for Ed to say, like Frank Sinatra, that he is content to do it “my way”. There are objective measures that the public will judge him on – strength, decisiveness, purpose – where he needs to raise his game.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Advice for Ed: Unless Ed shows how Labour can be trusted on spending he might as well sing his speech in Swahili

30/09/2012, 07:00:31 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Third speech as leader, maybe it will be third time lucky. The task remains the same as in 2010: tackle voter concerns about Labour on spending. Note the focus here: spending. It’s not the deficit, nor debt, though both ideas are clearly very closely linked. It’s spending.

Too often when issues such as fiscal credibility or deficit reduction are raised, the Labour leadership’s immediate response is to talk about growth.

It’s understandable, our leaders are most comfortable describing ways to grow the cake rather than shrink it. No-one joins the Labour party to slash services. But just talking about how to boost the economy completely ignores the reason Labour lost the last election: voters don’t trust Labour on spending.

We could have the best plans for successfully stimulating the economy, reducing unemployment and supporting businesses and it would all matter not a jot.

That spurious charge, “Labour maxed the credit card” has stuck.  For many, debt and the deficit are the consequences of our reckless spending.  No matter how effective Labour’s plans for growth, voters think we would simply spend our way back into trouble.

Until this perception – and it is just a perception – is effectively rebutted, the party does not have voters’ permission to be heard on the economy.

The latest Ipsos Mori poll, released last Friday, has some stark figures that illustrate the depth of the hole in which the party finds itself.

In terms of the party with the best policies for managing the economy, Labour has fallen back since May. Immediately after Osborne’s bodged budget, the party had pulled level. Now, we are 5 points behind with 30% saying the Tories have the best policies and 25% opting for Labour.

Lest we forget, this slide on economic competence has happened during the worst of the double dip recession. If and when growth does return to the economy, what will happen to Labour’s economic ratings?

In his speech, Ed Miliband needs to directly address our problems on spending. He needs to acknowledge it as a real concern for many and show why voters can trust Labour again.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Advice for Ed: Ed Miliband’s speech to Labour party conference 2012

29/09/2012, 07:00:33 AM

Anthony Painter solves the traditional last minute scramble to finish the leader’s speech by providing a final draft, ready for delivery, four days early

Embargo:1415 02/10/12

Ed Miliband speech to Labour conference, Manchester 2012

*Check against delivery*

It is now half a decade since a financial storm lashed against these shores. A few spots of rain at first then became a torrent and flood. With quick action we limited the devastation but still the damage was still immense. No one was prepared but luckily we are resourceful. And yet, half decade on, we look on at the debris and desolation with a sense of regret: how did we end up here?

It is fine to look back and say what might have been, what should have been. And we all – across the parties – need the humility to admit that more should have been done to spot the weakness in our defences and ensure we were better prepared. Our financial system was not sustainable. Or economy was unbalanced.

Our opponents want to turn this into a party political blame game. I understand that impulse but we all must take responsibility.

And at just the time when trust in our representatives was at a premium, we let the British people down.

They should have been able to expect honesty from those who hold their futures in their hands. And yet, many were on the take. At a time of confusion, we should have been able to turn in trust to those who we expect not to perform miracles but to at least share our basic values. As the expenses scandal took hold that line of trust was broken.

So it is little wonder that people didn’t feel ready to grant any single party a majority in the last election. Trust was broken. The financial storm was vicious. Optimism was lost.

Two years on, and too little has changed. We still are surrounded by the after-effects of the storm. Politicians are held in contempt.  In some ways, it is worse: we now also know that certain elements of the media were failing to meet the standards we have a right to expect. I understand very clearly why people would turn away from politicians. And I understand why they think that none of us really have any answers.

Yet we have to move forward somehow. There’s a nation to rebuild. It’s now clear that the austerity-first approach has failed. I’m going to say something very unusual in politics: I think our opponents genuinely felt that they were pursuing the right course. But they got it wrong. Getting a judgment call wrong might be forgivable if you are honest about it and shift course. This they have failed to do.

So my real criticism is their failure to acknowledge their error and reach for an alternative. It was always a risk to cull youth jobs programmes before the recovery was properly established. The same goes for cuts to housing, infrastructure, new schools and other much need investment. It was a gamble. The coalition lost the bet on our behalf.

Again, the blame game is not enough. We must now move forward from here. My question for the British people is a simple one: faced with this challenge what would an ambitious nation do?

Sure, we can turn on one another, we can despair, we can throw the distrust that our politicians have too easily fostered back at the political system. But there is another way. We can understand that the choices are hard, the sacrifices are many, but we can emerge as stronger, more resilient, more optimistic nation once we have rebuilt after the storm. And that is something we simply have to do together- as a nation not as opposing tribes.

Optimism doesn’t require us to shy away from reality, however. In fact, it means we have to face it. That means accepting some hard truths. The deficit will dominate our politics for the remainder of this decade. There is much that we would like to do – cut taxes for the average family, expand social care, child care and invest more in public services – but this may all have to wait. If we find savings or we decide to ask the wealthy to pay more as they can afford more then it will be the deficit not new programmes that takes priority.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon