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 Jim Murphy has set out an ambitious (and Labour) vision for development

    Jim Murphy has set out an ambitious (and Labour) vision for development

    Since its earliest days Labour has been an internationalist party and proud of it, too. From Keir Hardy and Harold Wilson to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, those who shaped Labour’s vision in the 20th and early 21st Century regarded the fight against poverty overseas as a natural extension of the fight against poverty at home. If Labour wins in 2015, we look forward to our proud tradition continuing. But with the clear focus of the current leadership on the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Party democracy is important, so let’s fight for it

    Party democracy is important, so let’s fight for it

    Contrary to popular belief (and by popular belief, I mean the belief that prevails amongst the Shadow Cabinet and its apparatchiks) the Labour Party does not exist as a fan club for the Parliamentary faction. The Labour Party is an instrument through which ordinary people can shape their own lives and change the future of this country in a direction that is beneficial to our people. The recent decision by the Labour leadership to vote with the Coalition and implement […]

    Read more →
  • Comment What can Labour offer young people?

    What can Labour offer young people?

    Tony Blair proclaimed in 1997 that his three main priorities in government were ‘education, education, education.’ This has not translated to an increase in votes from young people.  Voter turnout between 1997 and 2005 amongst those aged 18-24 fell from an estimated 54.1% of this age range in 1997, down to 38.2% in 2005.  By contrast, voter turnout amongst those who are aged over 65 has never fallen below 70% since 1964.  As voters aged over 65 are more likely […]

    Read more →
  • News Iraq Inquiry report now expected in 2015

    Iraq Inquiry report now expected in 2015

    Sir John Chilcot’s report into the Iraq War is now not expected to be published until spring 2015, leaving worries for Labour as to how it will affect the election campaign. The Independent reports that “discussions between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office remain deadlocked, and a year-long stand-off is now unlikely to be resolved before the current parliamentary session ends. Even if a deal were reached over the summer recess, legal protocols and procedures would push the Iraq report’s […]

    Read more →
  • Featured MPs should not be employing their own staff

    MPs should not be employing their own staff

    Over the weekend, Eric Joyce made a very sensible suggestion. He may have a penchant for violence that is unbecoming of a Member of Parliament, and he may be some way down the list of people you’d go to for comment on Parliamentary standards – but on this one issue he was completely right. Joyce went on Sky News yesterday and said that MPs should not be employing staff directly, they should be employed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority […]

    Read more →