Ed Miliband wasn’t exactly on expansive form in Saturday’s Telegraph interview with Charles Moore; his slightly too convenient conversion to aspirational Thatcherism and Yul Brynner like reflexes whilst disposing of a troublesome mosquito providing the highlights.
However, I did spot one fascinating quote that neatly encapsulated everything currently wrong with the Labour leader’s ongoing struggle to put some flesh on the skeletal bones of his political agenda.
Outlining his social vision, Miliband said, “We want a market economy, not a market society”. Okay, it wasn’t the most dramatic of statements, but the line stuck. “Hello”, I thought, “I think we could have one of ‘Ed’s Themes’ developing here.”
In June 2010 many would have said Labour was going to spend a long time in opposition. The Labour government that presided over the trip to the IMF and the recessions of the 1970s left such a legacy of distrust that Labour stayed out of government until 1997. The Conservative government that entered the Exchange Rate Mechanism leading to the recession of the early 1990s has kept the Conservatives from a majority ever since. Surely, many thought, presiding over the huge boom and bust of the last decade and presiding over bank bankruptcies that no-one had seen before in the UK, would mean something similar for Labour?
Yet Labour is now regularly 10% or more ahead in opinion polls, just two years after their bad defeat in 2010. They can thank the Lib Dems for that.
It has been traditional for Conservatives and many in the media to be dismissive of Ed Miliband. I have always advised colleagues to take him seriously and not to underestimate him. His campaign over Murdoch led to the Leveson enquiry which will do damage to the Coalition with the media. His wish to change perceptions of Labour’s approach to immigration is a necessary part of his journey to reconnect with lost Labour voters. Mr Balls has associated them with a growth agenda, which is shrewd political positioning given the state of the world economy.
My reaction to last week’s local election results is straightforward: I get the message, loud and clear. I know that the familiar excuses – low turnout, mid-term blues – aren’t enough. Even the difficulties of our economic situation and the tough but necessary decisions the Government has had to take cannot fully explain the results. The message people are sending is this: focus on what matters, deliver what you promise – and prove yourself in the process. I get it.
So let me spell this out. I am sceptical of those who claim to draw the answer to every problem from a loud ideology, but I am fierce in my commitment to a fair society in which effort is rewarded, work pays, and the state is there to help people but not shape every part of their lives. I am on the side of people who work hard, want to get on and play by the rules. I loathe with a passion the bankrupt, high-taxing, something for nothing society left behind by Labour, and I am in politics to change it.
Labour will be shut out of power for a generation if it succumbs to “a vapid form of leftism” that appeals only to its core supporters, one of the main authors of its manifesto for the 2010 general election has claimed.In a powerful critique of the party, Patrick Diamond warns that Labour is making a negligible impact on the major issues of the day and is pointing “in different directions simultaneously”.
Diamond, a former No10 adviser to Tony Blair who worked with Ed Miliband on Labour’s manifesto for the election, writes: “If Labour detaches itself from the complex and contradictory currents of popular sentiment, it risks drifting towards political irrelevance and repeated defeat.”
The intervention by Diamond, who worked as an adviser to Lord Mandelson when he was Northern Ireland secretary, echoes the views of some senior party figures who fear Miliband is struggling to make an impact.
Supporters of Blair, who are voicing criticism in private, believe Miliband deserves credit for highlighting the importance of tackling Britain’s fiscal deficit. But they believe the electorate will not listen to Labour unless Miliband and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, are more honest about Labour’s high levels of spending between 2005-2010. Blair had a battle with Gordon Brown after the 2005 election over the need to rein in spending.
He had been due to address health professionals and union activists in Hull at noon on Saturday, as part of Labour’s Drop the Bill campaign.
Gaffe-prone Ed cancelled his appearance on Friday night – telling disappointed NHS workers he was sick.
But less than three hours after he had been due to make his appearance, he was spotted watching Hull City take on Ipswich town.
A Labour spokesman said: “Ed was ill on Friday and Saturday morning. He travelled to Yorkshire as soon as he was able but it was, unfortunately, too late to make the NHS rally.
“He was disappointed it couldn’t happen, and was keen to attend the protest.”
He added that the visit to the KC Stadium was a long-standing commitment.
Sources at Hull City confirmed to the Mail that representatives of Mr Miliband had called the club on Friday afternoon to say he had been feeling unwell.
Patriotism may well be the last refuge of a scoundrel. But it’s also a pretty cosy hidey-hole for an opposition leader struggling to convince the electorate he’s the hombre to put the Great back into Britain.
Ed Miliband has just urged us all to buy British. “There are three words we do not hear enough,” he informed the Engineer Employers Federation a few minutes ago. “Those three words are ‘Made in Britain’”. Too right, Ed. We don’t hear the words “Ed Miliband would make a brilliant Prime Minister” all that much either. But Made in Britain will do to be going along with.
This speech represents an interesting departure for Labour’s leader. You can tell, because whenever Miliband moves off the secure ground of, say, the NHS reforms or David Cameron’s riding technique, he spends four fifths of his time telling us all what his plans aren’t, rather than what they are.
So today’s call to buy British, last echoed in 1968, is “not about a backward looking Buy British campaign” – perish the thought – “it’s about something else”.
Worryingly little work has been done on the plans to redistribute parliamentary power
Nick Clegg rather hopes we won’t notice that he is about to have another go at pushing through a fundamental change to the constitution. He knows that what he wants to do is of little interest to any of us, and might even annoy us once we work out that, in the middle of an economic crisis, he is proposing to divert the Government’s limited time and resources to a political project of headache-inducing difficulty. I suspect he also worries that if we find out, we might object, and then where would he be? The last time he tried to get one of his schemes past the voters they said “no” in such numbers that the Lib Dems have to this day scarcely recovered from the shock.