As I wrote yesterday, today is a big day for the Labour Party.
Ed Miliband is giving a speech in Bedford (or as it seems obligatory to call it “a major speech on the economy”) and Jon Cruddas is speaking in East London at the launch of IPPR’s “Condition of Britain”. Both will be well worth watching – but it’s the interplay between the two men, and how these speeches will dovetail, that could be particularly interesting.
Especially as Cruddas may have already pulled Miliband’s rabbit out of his hat for him…
From the pre-briefing and the media coverage (especially Miliband’s Guardian interview), it would seem like today’s economy speech is fairly routine. There’s some good imagery around being in Bedford (where Macmillan once told Britain “you’ve never had it so good”) and some fleshing out of existing policy (such as a commitment to capping interest on payday lenders). But on the whole the speech looks largely like a consolidation of Miliband’s existing statements on growing the economy, with a top line straight off the back of the membership card – the many, not the few – and the Obama-esque phrasing of “middle out”. We’ll be hearing more of that between now and the budget – and it dovetails nicely with “Squeezed Middle” – but I’m not sure it’s big enough to justify the tag of “major speech”.
But like Sunny Hundal, I have a sneaking suspicion that Miliband is holding something significant back for the speech itself. There are a few clues that this might be the case.
Firstly – the speech is being labelled as “major”. Miliband’s team are aware that they are sometimes accused – as Steve Richards did today - or giving thoughtful speeches with no major policy. I’d be surprised if that was the case today, as it would be a huge failure of expectation management that should have been easy to spot.
Secondly – Miliband and his team are very keen on this speech going ahead. Despite trains being cancelled between Bedford and London, the speech is going ahead, with help being provided for intrepid hacks who can make it to Stevenage. They very much want people to be there – this was never going to be cancelled. If this were a routine speech, then surely they’d move it or cancel it?
Thirdly – Cruddas may just have given away the big reveal. On Newsnight last night he suggested that Labour could reintroduce the 10p tax rate (which isn’t so much middle out as bottom up). I spoke to a source close to Miliband last night who said simply “Cruddas is Cruddas” (reminiscent of Blair’s famous John is John), but Labour’s policy chief surely isn’t just throwing out ideas at random on national TV? At the same time Miliband’s consigliere Stewart Wood wrote for the Huffington Post this morning, noting the importance of “a commitment to find new ways in which the tax system can more fairly distribute the burden of support, both in lean and better times”, which sounds awfully like a fairer tax system. That could be a reference to the 50p tax rate. But could it be something more?
That’s the big question today. Miliband needs to say something that will cut through and make the speech go ‘pop’. A rehash of old ideas – even a really good one – won’t be enough after such build up.
We wait with baited breath…