Ed Miliband's hopeless speech leaves us all speechless

Ed Miliband is said to be smart, if nothing else. How do we explain his persistent refusal to engage in any serious way at all with the great issues of our time? What does it say about him as a person, let alone as a potential leader?

Would it be better if he made no speeches at all?
Charles Crawford
On 14 November 2014 08:31

Previously here in 2012 I shared thoughts on the public speaking style of Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition in the UK:

According to the full version of the speech I have seen, it contained a mighty 7390 words. The speech was, of course, an attempt to commandeer from the Conservatives the Disraeli notion of One Nation politics. A bold move you might think, given the evermore fervid anti-Semitism insinuating itself into British Leftist political thought.

It therefore is no surprise to see that the phrase “one nation” appears in the speech an impressive 46 times. This goes far beyond trite speechwriting homiologia as a way of getting a key point across, and enters the realms of advanced psittacosis.

The word “dinosaurs” appears four times. Not, alas, in describing the more Jurassic features of the British labour movement.

The word “Nazis” appears twice. The word “Communists” not at all.

The word “Europe” appears once in describing the UK as Mr Miliband sees us: “a country which engages with Europe and the rest of the world” is. A strangely drafted but revealingly Eurosceptic sentence that defines the UK as something separate from Europe.

The expression “European Union” and “Eurozone” do not appear a single time, even though the constitutional and financial convulsions elsewhere in Europe would appear to be more important for our country’s future even than Mr Miliband’s ambitious but patronising plans for a new Technical Baccalaureate for the supposedly “forgotten 50% who do not go to university”.

He’s back, with another speech intended to show that he is the fellow to lead our country. The full text of his speech today is here (as of this evening) on the Labour Party site. It runs to 2378 words in that version.

Once again the speech is served up to us the public on the Labour website in a way designed to be as annoying as possible. Short sentence by short sentence, as if we are unable to grasp complex thoughts expressed in paragraphs (to be fair, David Cameron does the same).

Basic British values.

Hard work rewarded.

Vested interests made to work in the public interest.

Public services there when you need them.

And a country succeeding together, not ripped apart.

Labour values.

The values of the British people.

The values that will win us the general election.


ProTip to politicians. The version of a speech put out on your website should NOT be the one used by the speaker. A version intended to be read on a screen is not the same thing as a version intended to be read out. They do different jobs for different audiences. Don’t get it? Buy my forthcoming e-book Speechwriting for Leaders when it comes out – all will be clear.

What about Word Search?

The phrase European Union appears just once, as does the word Europe. Funny that. One might have thought that the issue of the UK’s membership of the European Union could be a major general election issue.

This is no coincidence. The whole speech is excruciatingly parochial. Once again boring words such as China, USA, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, nuclear, ISIS and so on are not used once, even though this politician is asserting that he is the right man to lead one of the most influential countries of the world. The word Scotland is not there either, even though Labour’s vote up there is evaporating faster than the steam from the best Glasgow porridge.

Instead he bangs on and on about ‘values’, albeit not to the point of murdering the word as he did in 2011 by using it 43 times in one speech. This time it was a puny ten times. Such as here:

And above all Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.

Basic British values.

Hard work rewarded.

Vested interests made to work in the public interest.

Hmm. A curiously fascist idea, if not the return of slavery: vested interests made (sic) to work in the public interest.

What? There’s more enforced collectivism?

This is about our character as a party.

The wealth creators, not just the wealth distributors.

Because we need to make possible good, private sector jobs at decent wages.

‘We’ (the Labour Party?) need to make (sic) good private sector jobs at decent wages? How precisely?

Like on immigration.

It isn’t prejudiced to worry about the effects of immigration.

It’s not? Why does the Guardianista tendency rail against anyone who worries about just that, shrieking raaaaaaacism?

It is because of the real impacts (sic) it has…

A sense of fairness means that we can’t simply allow wages to be undercut.

A sense of fairness means that entitlement to benefits should be earned, so you contribute for longer before you claim.

And belief in community means that people should learn English and be part of our society.

But immigration of poorer workers from the EU and elsewhere means exactly that ‘wages are undercut’. Indeed, that’s the point of allowing it – to bring in people who might do marginal jobs that sturdy British yeopersons find beneath them. That necessarily creates a downward pressure on wages in many sectors. Add supply – lower price. Everyone knows that. Don’t they?

Oh, and what if ‘people’ don’t learn English, or reject our society? There’s nothing in EU law that requires English people in Poland to learn Polish. Why should Poles living here learn English? Why exactly should fanatical Islamists with Asian backgrounds learn to be part of our society? They reject the whole moral basis of our society! That’s the problem!

Or maybe it’s not a problem at all, if they mainly vote Labour in rotten constituencies such as Rotherham?

We will be talking more about immigration as a party.

But always on the basis of Labour values, not UKIP values.

We know that the deep discontent with the country (sic) gives rise to those who suggest false solutions.

But unlike the Tories, what we will never do is try to out-UKIP UKIP.

“What we will never do is try to out-UKIP UKIP.” How have we moved from the mighty orators of earlier generations on both Right and Left to this grotesque sentence?

This time wily Ed does not forget to deliver the key part of his speech:

People asking why they are on zero hours contracts while some of those at the top get away with paying zero tax.

The zero zero economy we need to change …

Here’s the key soundbite. Our zero-zero economy!

And it is about all those people who feel that there is something just not right about the values of a country when they see Chief Executives get a 21 per cent pay rise last year, as everyone else’s wages have fallen.

These are the symptoms of a deeply unequal, deeply unfair, deeply unjust country.

Really? Or maybe it’s in good part the result of mass immigration and globalisation and free trade and attracting smart, wealthy people to live here and all sorts of other fashionable things that Labour promoted when last in office, with Ed Miliband one of its champions. Perhaps it is bad that some people get paid far more than others, although as this happens in almost every society anywhere on Earth it might just be the way things are. Worth at least mentioning that there are, ahem, some tricky political and philosophical issues here? Apparently not!

On it goes. Ed concludes:

Let’s fight for a fairer, more just, more equal Britain.

That’s what I am going to do.

Ah, our old favourite. The shifty comparative form. He apparently does not believe in a fair, just, equal Britain. Instead we get those evasive qualifiers.

Lordy. It’s all such thin, dreary stuff.

Slogan after slogan, sly hints of red meat redistribution to raise a cheer among Old Labour headbangers but smothered in  over-boiled vegetables of cliche and soundbite to make it seem less scary to the rest of us. Maybe as the Guardian suggests, he is now realising that mobilising lugubrious Old Labour voters in this sort of way is now the best he can do. And, depressing thought, if the electorate fragments, maybe it will be enough to get him into power.

Ed Miliband is said to be smart, if nothing else. How do we explain his persistent refusal to engage in any serious way at all with the great issues of our time? What does it say about him as a person, let alone as a potential leader?

When V Putin reads this speech, will he be feeling that he needs to lift his game? When B Obama reads it, will he be sighing with relief that once again the UK is serving up world-class leaders with both charisma and sharp intellect?

To which answers come there none.

Marks out of ten for style? Zero

Marks out of ten for substance? Zero

Zero zero. QED

Charles Crawford is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former British Ambassador in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw, he is now a private consultant and writer. His website is www.charlescrawford.biz. He tweets @charlescrawford

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