Ed’s next conference speech

September 30, 2011 4:27 pm

Ed MilibandBy Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

The past few days have seen repeated probing and prodding at the detail (or otherwise) or Ed Miliband’s leader’s speech. In many ways this was Ed Miliband’s first “real” speech as leader at conference. Last year he gave two of course, but the first was a stumbling, emotionally charged affair, and the second was much improved, but clearly written as an expansion of his stump speech from the leadership contest.

But this time was for real. He is undisputedly the Labour leader. There are no challengers, coups or public squabbles on the horizon. He spoke to the public, not the party. That’s a good thing.

But next year, Ed shouldn’t give a speech at all – because he’s not great at them and they don’t suit him.

I’m clearly not alone in thinking so. At least one member of his team was briefing the Guardian before conference that Ed should abandon the set piece leader’s speech and do four key speeches around the country. That acknowledges that this kind of speech is seen as high risk for Miliband. But making four big speeches around the country would be foolhardy. The press – especially TV – are only interested in the big conference event. The risk of them ignoring Miliband’s roadshow as a vanity exercise is too great.

So that’s the problem in a nutshell – the media only care about the conference speech and Ed isn’t great at them. It seems Ed’s team are keen on referring to the infamous “let Bartlet be Bartlet” slogan from The West Wing. Apart from the fact that TWW is fiction, it also suggests that they weren’t watching it that closely. In real-life America Jed Bartlet wouldn’t have been elected dog catcher anywhere outside San Francisco or Vermont.

But if “let Miliband be Miliband” is the current thinking amongst the assembled staffers in Ed’s office, then they should be bold in it’s implementation. Next year, Ed should abandon the traditional speech format, and do what he’s good at. Being straight. Being natural. Interacting with the public. In that format he’s funny, engaging and likeable. None of those adjectives could be applied to his speech delivery. If he’s going to be a man of the people, and challenge the establishment, the very least he could do it stop looking and acting like the establishment. He should take the conference Q&A format (which he’s actually rather good at) and make that the foccal point of his conference, and the point at which the media are focussed. Ed’s best conference speech is widely believe to be this one, which he did without notes. Doing the same kind of thing as Labour leader – with the added risk of difficult questions from the floor – is a high wire act that a risk averse leader might avoid. Ed isn’t risk averse, and he’s gaining nothing from traditional speeches.

The really risky thing to do for Miliband would be to say he’s “anti-business as usual” and not act like it…

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Labour’s immigration policies are excellent – we need to champion them on the doorstep

    Labour’s immigration policies are excellent – we need to champion them on the doorstep

    The pistol has been fired and the race has begun. For many Labour activists door knocking and phone banking has become a regular part of evenings and weekends as the fight to return a Labour government on 7 May intensifies. Over the past few weeks two topics of doorstep conversation have leapt out at me. One is the passion felt by people of all ages, particularly the older generation, for the NHS. The second, predictably, is public concern over immigration. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Make National Community Service compulsory

    Make National Community Service compulsory

    Last month David Cameron called for all 18- to 21-year-olds who have failed to find a job or a place in training to be forced to undertake community work. Under Tory plans those aged between 18 and 21 who have not had a job for six months will be barred from claiming benefit unless they agree to start an apprenticeship or complete community work. The plan is designed to ensure that the 50,000 young people “most at risk of starting […]

    Read more →
  • News London Mayoral candidate attempts to crowdfund cost of campaign

    London Mayoral candidate attempts to crowdfund cost of campaign

    Labour candidates for Mayor will be trying to fund their campaigns in all manner of ways – but Christian Wolmar (the transport expert who joined the race first and remains the only candidate who isn’t an elected politician) has gone down the crowdfunding route. Wolmar is trying to raise £3,000 for his campaign by next week – and has currently raised nearly half of that sum. Although as with all crowdfunding, he must raise the whole sum or he gets […]

    Read more →
  • News “State sanctioned abuse” has taken place Yarl’s Wood, says Cooper

    “State sanctioned abuse” has taken place Yarl’s Wood, says Cooper

    Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, has asked an urgent question in the Commons about abuse allegations at Yarl’s Wood. Yarl’s Wood is an immigration detention centre that opened in 2001. Ever since then guards (who come from private company Serco, which runs the facilitiy) are have faced serious accusations that there has been ongoing mistreatment of the people detained in the facility. This includes reports of sexual abuse and degrading treatment. On Monday, Channel 4 aired a documentary which had […]

    Read more →
  • News 75% of Labour PPCs want Trident gone, poll finds

    75% of Labour PPCs want Trident gone, poll finds

    75% of Labour PPCs want to see Trident scrapped, according to information collected by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). CND have surveyed 79 Labour prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) – which includes both current MPs and new candidates. Of those asked, 75%  said they wouldn’t vote to renew Trident. This is roughly a quarter more than those who said the same in a ComRes poll for the BBC Sunday Politics in September last year (which surveyed 73 people). Meanwhile, in the CND […]

    Read more →