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

  • News Scotland Johann Lamont denies quit rumours

    Johann Lamont denies quit rumours

    Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has denied rumours that she’s planning to quit – and says that she can beat the presumptive next SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, telling the Daily Record “I wouldn’t stand against her if I didn’t think I’d beat her”. Rumours have circulated in recent weeks that Lamont would step down after the referendum campaign – especially after her Glasgow constituents voted for independence – with Jim Murphy just one of those linked with […]

    Read more →
  • News Hours before Tory conference starts – ANOTHER Tory MP defects to UKIP

    Hours before Tory conference starts – ANOTHER Tory MP defects to UKIP

    First Douglas Carswell quit the Tories to join UKIP. Now Mark Reckless has acted like his name and joined the Purple Peril – and has just been announced as the latest defector at UKIP conference. Labour’s attack line is of course that UKIP are “More Tory than the Tories”. Reckless gave a speech that will have only backed that up. Have a great time in Birmingham Dave…. Update: Michael Dugher is straight out of the traps to react to the Reckless […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour conference, Ed Miliband and the English question

    Labour conference, Ed Miliband and the English question

    With all the usual attention to the policy thrust of the Leader’s speech, too few commentators recognised the radical new approach to England when Ed Miliband’s spoke to conference on Tuesday. Identity, an inescapable part of politics in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for years, is now part and parcel of English politics. It’s true, as Ed Miliband argued, that a desire for wider change drove much of the Scottish campaign. But once people see the chance of change tied […]

    Read more →
  • News LabourList Contributing Editor nominated for major comment award

    LabourList Contributing Editor nominated for major comment award

    A few months ago we announced the expansion of our team. Conor Pope and Maya Goodfellow joined us as staff writers and have already made an immense difference to the site, increasing both the quality and quantity of our output over the past few months. In fact – the last six months has been by far the most successful in LabourList’s history – culminating in our massively over-subscribed Labour conference programme. We’ve also added two Contributing Editors to the site […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour’s attack line for this week?: “The Tories: for a privileged few”

    Labour’s attack line for this week?: “The Tories: for a privileged few”

    As journalists, lobbyists, and even a few Tory members head to Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, it seems there’s a new Labour Party masthead on their press releases this week. Labour’s key message this week? The Tories are for the “privileged few”: There’s even a briefing document outlining Labour’s lines of attack. Meanwhile, here’s the masthead of Labour’s UKIP press releases: The next week is going to be about attack, it seems…

    Read more →
7ads6x98y