There are all sorts of stories buzzing around today about Ed Miliband’s speech. Some of those are rumours and some are certain as they’ve been briefed out by the party. So this morning, I’m going to try and sort fact from fiction…
No notes: Ed Miliband’s reputation was built, in part, on a conference speech he once made without notes. It’s easier when you’re not leader of course, but he’s got form. Someone close to Ed who I spoke to last night told me he has a “photographic memory” – but even if that’s not true, the speech was finished weeks ago, so he’s had plenty of time to memorise it. I was dubious about this at first, but several reliable sources have said this is the case. I’m fairly sure it’ll happen – as I reported on our live blog last night.
A deeply personal speech: Ed has written this speech himself, I’m led to believe (unlike the jigsaw puzzle of competing authors that was last year’s speech). We certainly know that Miliband will talk about his education at Haverstock Comp, and his background too. I’m a little concerned about the “personal speech”/”this is me” approach. I think Ed has tried that two years in a row, and it hasn’t worked. So why now? Further proof if needed though comes in the form of tomorrow night’s Labour PPB – nicknamed Ed the movie. I saw some of it briefly yesterday, which includes – for example – an old school friend. It’s a fairly transparent Ed is a nice guy/like you/understands your concerns approach. It may boost his positives but I’m not sure it’ll fix negative perceptions of him.
Big policy ideas? – The most widely pre-briefed section of the speech is that on plans for more technical and vocational qualifications for the “other 50%” (actually its far more than that) who don’t go to University. Laudable stuff. Concrete policy. And about getting people back into work too. It’s coherent and should prove popular. Stephen Twigg was certainly quick to defend it against Gove this morning. That said, it doesn’t – for me – meet the essential criteria for this speech in policy terms. It’s not a big doorstep idea, and I think it’s still only just beginning to reach the sheer scale of thinking we need to tackle the three great crises in the country – youth unemployment, social care and housing. But perhaps there will be a rabbit pulled from a hat. That’s certainly been mooted – I wait with baited breath.
Verdict: for a conference that much of the media thinks is irrelevant, doing a speech with no notes, from memory, that you’ve written yourself and with a major – technical – policy initiative is a high risk strategy. Whether of not you think it’s a good idea probably depends on whether or not you think he can pull it off…
I’m actually quite confident that a more relaxed style suits Ed better than standing rigidly behind a lectern. He’s better when he’s making eye contact with people and engaging with a room. But I also think that telling his life story isn’t going to make people think of him as a potential future Prime Minister. That’s what this speech needs to do.
We’ll be liveblogging/tweeting the speech this afternoon, and bringing you analysis of the speech soon afterwards.