“My message today is that Labour can deliver fairness when there is less money around. But more than that, I want to explain why only Labour can.”
That’s what Ed and his team want the headline message of today’s big speech to be. Many in the media are trying to spin this as a relaunch – understandably, as Ed has been having a tough time lately. But a relaunch implies a change of direction, which this speech doesn’t appear to be. There’s a change of emphasis sure – and an important one – as Ed will talk openly and forcefully about Labour’s responsibility to cut the deficit, but that’s nothing that hasn’t been said before by Miliband (or Balls for that matter). Perhaps the media cut through of “In the black Labour” has played a part? We’ll be hearing from them soon after Ed’s speech to get their take on it.
Ed will be focussing on the question of what Labour is about when there’s no money left – and Lord Wood (one of his key advisers) has taken on this idea in the Guardian today. Regular readers will know that’s something we are very interested in too, and will continue to focus on in the years ahead.
Yet there’s still a legitimate concern that Ed isn’t outlining anything specific. As a doorstep activist – and as someone who wants to be enthused about he party and our vision for Britain – I need something a bit more solid to take away than “tackling vested interrests” and “making choices that favour the hard working majority”. They both sound wonderful, but what do they mean? Are they things that’s Cameron would argue against? Are they absent from the political aims of any politician? I’m not so sure.
I’ve argued before that Ed needs to come up with some flagship policies that she what he is about, and would prioritise, in government. You might call them “What’s Ed about when there’s nothing else left?”. I don’t feel I have that yet. He had some of these “policy flavours” back in the leadership contest – grad tax and living wage to name but two – but they seem absent now.
From all of the briefing I’ve read and received on this speech, it doesn’t seem like we’ll get anything like that today.
But I live in hope.
Update: Senior Ed adviser Stewart Wood has been in touch, He said:
“Fair challenge Mark. Here are five solid things that Ed Miliband’s agenda of responsible capitalism means…
1. Requiring all businesses that get major government contracts to offer apprenticeships as a condition of getting the deal
2. Supporting High Pay Commission’s recommendations regulating excess pay
3. Requiring energy companies to automatically provide the lowest tariff for energy to over-75s
4. Levying a bankers’ bonus tax to raise money for investment in youth unemployment
5. Taking away the corporation tax cut for financial services and using it to reduce students’ tuition fees”
None of these are quite what I meant by flagship policies, but fair play to Stewart and Ed’s team for responding. I also understand there’s more policy meat to come. I look forward to that, because it really can’t come soon enough for me.