The odd man is turning up the volume
40 minutes late, and trailed by the BBC as “David”, it’s safe to say that Ed Miliband’s big relaunch speech didn’t go so well.
With leadership rumblings, widespread mocking and after a dire couple of weeks, this was Ed Miliband’s chance to nail down his 'responsible capitalism' theme.
Having floated his latest idea in his conference speech last September, the message was now honed and the anti-business rhetoric notably toned down. Not a predator in sight.
The Labour leader's self-important press team had heavily briefed whoever would listen that this speech was meant to be a “development” of the theme.
Forgive us then for expecting to receive more than words.
Viewers were subjected to an arduous moan about how the government had gazumped him for his best sound bites. Notions like the "squeezed middle", incidently not coined by Ed, but by Michael Dukakis in 1988, have been lifted, not because of Ed's political genius, but because the government's own focus groups are showing the same results as Labour's. There are painful lessons of opposition here: your themes, if they work, will be swiped from under your nose unless you can flesh them out and stamp them with your brand. This comes only with serious policy recommendations.
We get “why” now; you’ve said it enough. But if Miliband is to save his bacon, we need to hear “how”.
If the “more responsible capitalism” theme gave any notion of precisely how the egalitarian definition of 'fairness' can be “hard-wired into the economy” then perhaps it would be harder to shirk. Governments find it tricky to crib whole, firm policies, but ideas are hard to trade mark. Some opaque elocution about fairer taxes is not enough to explain how this redesign of our capitalistic system is going to happen. It excites no one. Not journalists, and certainly not the public.
Ed claimed that the he is leading the way, which must be why the his approval rating hovers around the minus 40 mark even amongst the Labour faithful. He may be good at sensing the mood turning (take the phone-hacking scandal peak, where he went from sipping champagne at Murdoch’s summer party to calling for blood in a matter of days), but the section of his speech that claimed he is somehow leading the debate should become a textbook example for any student looking at the art and science of political delusion.
What's likely to be painfully clear to Ed's inner circle is that far from the rampaging 2012 they all hope Her Majesty's Leader of the Opposition experiences, this year will be even more trying for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party than the last - and that is truly a harrowing prospect for them.
Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator and the News Editor for the Guido Fawkes Blog. He tweets at @MrHarryCole
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