Not a relaunch, but a change of emphasis

10th January, 2012 10:23 am
“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.

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  • John Slinger

    Hardly revelatory, but my views on this

    Ed Miliband is in the right place on the big issues. As Mark says, it would be good now to see some flesh on the bone, but it’s still early days. He’s set out the intellectual and moral case and it’s therefore much easier now to add the policies. The policies we do come up with must however be pragmatic and radical (I would say that, wouldn’t I?…) and must be cost-neutral. It can be done, but challenging vested interests (the hackneyed phrase) is a prerequisite to achieving this in these straitened times. Under New Labour, the benign economic environment made the ‘Third Way’ logical, coherent and successful. Those days are over, probably never to return. We cannot dodge the tough decisions. Now is when we must show our mettle in formulating policies which ensure fairness in this new paradigm.

    I’d suggest we consider some radical measures such as resolving the housing crisis. Vested interests will squeal, but this is the new politics…Triangulation no longer works. Mollifying powerful interests is a recipe for maintaining the status quo and this is economically and politically untenable. 

    At Pragmatic Radicalism, we’re seeking to bring people together from all ‘wings’ of the party through our Top Of The Policies events during 2012. The idea is that anyone, from an ex-Cabinet minister to an ‘ordinary’ member like me, can present their new policy idea in 2 mins, followed by 2 mins Q&A, then a ballot, then a count, then a Top 10 and ultimately a Top Policy. Oh and I forgot to mention – it’s in a pub with free drinks and a prize. Our first event of 2012 is next Tuesday, in the Barley Mow pub on Horseferry Rd, Westminster. It’s focusing on SKILLS. It’s sponsored by unionlearn and Unions21 (thanks v much to both).

    It’s chaired by Michael White. Please come along and please take part.  I can be contacted @JohnSlinger @PragRad or [email protected]:disqus 

    Speakers agreed so far include John Edmonds, Anthony Painter, Parmjit Dhanda and many, many more. Please get in touch if you’d like to join them.

    More details at
    Facebook event page is:

    For an idea of how these events run see our pages on our successful Labour Party Conference fringe event at and 

    • Anonymous

      “The idea is that anyone, from an ex-Cabinet minister to an ‘ordinary’ member like me, can present their new policy idea in 2 mins, followed by 2 mins Q&A, ”
      It’s so nice to think that ideas which might help – or damage – people are being discussed in such depth, and presented like an ITV game show

  • Kernow Castellan

    Post 1997, the Tories could not get used to the fact that they were no longer in Government. Many complained Tony Blair also acted as if he were still in opposition.

    Labour have to realise that they no longer set the benchmark, against which others are measured – that is the prerogative of government.

    So every Labour idea will be asked – will you spend more, tax more or borrow more than the relevant government status quo. (I originally included “…or less” in that last sentence but I couldn’t think of any policy where that was true).

    There is a logical argument to borrowing more to stimulate growth, and paying it back later from an increased GDP – left wingers think this should be done through more centralised spending, and right wingers that it should go on tax cuts (an unholy coalition of Ed Balls and John Redwood!). Labour are timidly refusing to even engage in this discussion. Unfortunately this results in the policies looking uncosted and poorly thought through.

    Labour should not be afraid of the question “will you spend more, tax more or borrow more” – it is what will be asked implicitly in any case.

    • Anonymous

      There is a logical argument to borrowing more to stimulate growth, and paying it back later from an increased GDP

      And of course it depends on people being prepared to lend you more at a rate of interest you can afford. Sovereign CDS pricing  -insurance against the UK going bust and defaulting – has been rising in recent weeks… despite all the hoohaa  from Tory supporters, UK debt is still rising at an unsustainable rate – with Tory “cuts” – which are not cuts just lower increases .

      You’re living in a parallel universe if  you think borrowing more than the current Government is feasible. There is a a Eurocrisis  ongoing about the very issue.. 

      • Kernow Castellan

        It is undeniably true that you can buy GDP with stimulus borrowing, and I can see right- and left-wing people making that argument. Unfortunately, the evidence over the last few years is that it is only about 70% effective (i.e. 30% is lost in economic friction). So to get £1 of gain now, you pay £1.40 later (in today’s money)

        So the question remains whether it is better to borrow (from your children) in order to get out of the short term hole, paying a 40% premium on the way (plus interest).

        So it is a valid argument – if the country were starting from a stronger position, we would almost certainly be doing that as all politicians can be relied upon to trade long-term pain for short-term benefit.

        I happen to agree that the focus on solvency means that it would not be right to choose that now, but that does not mean you can never stimulate by spending or tax-cuts.

        • Anonymous

          I agree…

  • Anonymous

    The problem with making specific policy pledges now is that we are still over 3 years from the election. Things will change and policies may become outdated or irrelevant in that time.
    The other problem is that Cameron is not above stealing policies or watering them down, as with his pathetic offerings on executive pay this weekend.

    Be patient.

    • Anonymous

      I wonder how this stage compares to what DC was doing with his party when in opposition?
      I think he had about 4 years to prepare, but I don’t remember the mainstream media being all over him at every turn or attacking him in such a personal manner as we’ve seen via various outlets, such as ex ministers or allies as journalists?

      Maybe some of this is coming from internal factions within the party who feel frustrated?

      I think some kind of outside facilitation might help te resolve some of the conflicts;
      eg left over from the “Blair/Brown” years? It’s bound to have left an indelible
      effect after so many years in power; also that major period in transition.

      But now we’ve also got other major factors, like the post 2008 crisis,
      and a coalition- an unusual situation; Tories seem to be running the show-
      but don’t have a majority govt?
      Also Ed M- relatively inexperienced in senior role,
      trying to reform and renew the party.

      It’s a great deal of pressure for anyone; I do think more need to rally ’round;
      but there does need to be a time frame too and much work to be done.


  • Anonymous

    1. Requiring all businesses that get major government contracts to offer apprenticeships as a condition of getting the deal

    Presumably this means apprenticeships to UK citizens?

    And I assume this means all UK major contracts are placed in the UK?

    And that is illegal under EU law?

  • Anonymous

    This guy is a dud.

    Ed: “…the way that the current [energy] market works is disadvantaging consumers…”

    Er, you were the Secretary of State for Energy, Ed.

    Of course all negative reaction will be spun as ‘right-wing media bias’.

    But, just type Miliband into Twitter (which has a younger, anti-establishment bias).  He is being slaughtered for that speech.

    He has got to go.

  • derek

    Bingo!!!!!! game on!!!!!!!! outstanding Ed

  • Anonymous

    In other news, over at the Guardian live blog comment threads, the left of the party are also dumping all over him.

    Good old, Ed. Managing to repel both wings of the Party at the same time.

    • derek

      “Wealth creation” “regulate energy companies so the lowest tariffs go to those that need them the most” “Living Wage” “Housing families first” “a credible building “programme for more affordable housing” “A cut in tuition fees not a rise a start” “Shared proceeds of success” comprehensively Labour!!!!!!!!!

      • Anonymous

        Hallow platitudes and nothing more.

        Ed moaned today (rightly) about energy bills and the stitch-up of the energy market.  He had the single, most powerful job in the UK to be able fix this between 2008 and 2010.  He was the Secretary of State for Energy.

        Please point me to the detail of his policy and legislative agenda that has lead to fairer energy pricing today.

        You can’t.  He didn’t do anything, because he is a do-nothing person.

        • derek

          Yes I can’t because none of the six are public owned? much the same as opec sets the oil price and others follow. I think your right to point out Ed’s last position in government and the regulations should have been implemented then but there’s more there than what’s on offer from the tories and I hope we can agree on that Ovaljason.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Mark, would really like to return to this and read in more detail.


  • Anonymous

    I understand entirely what you are saying Mark and don’t disagree.

    I may be wrong, but I have a sense that much is happening behind the scenes;
    eg after reading Luke A’s article and S.Hayward; also the recent piece connected
    to formulation of Refounding Labour review?

    But somehow, something hasn’t come through, and it’s rather fits and starts
    with very long gaps in between?  

    Those good speeches needed following through and explaining more pragmatically,
    as above; but as you say Mark, it doesn’t look like enough that is solid?

    Also, I received an email via Labour announcements, I think a couple of months back-
    from P.Hain, suggesting next stage of Refounding process would be end of January?
    I don’t know what that entails; maybe results of amalgamation of views received,
    and what to go forward with?

    I don’t know also how policy formation usually happens in political parties,
    and I guess would be a bad thing if rushed; but why do so many people
    not know what is happening or left out of the equation- if that is the case?

    All I’ve mainly heard about are initiatives like Blue and Purple Labour,
    Into the Black etc and a raft of commentators, mainly from the right of the party
    setting some kind of agenda?

    But it doesn’t seem to be much from all sides, or involvement 
    with the grassroots’ activitists, as you suggest?

    I think you make the case very clear extreme clarity and direction
    is needed, also meat on the bone; and inspiring hope;
    bringing a whole team approach on board?

    Too many words I expect- but just trying to work out!

    Still seems a bit of a mystery- maybe all will become clearer
    over the next few months; maybe this has been known about
    and planned for some time; maybe 2012 is going to be the year
    to steer in a new direction at last.
    People have to be on board though!

    And personally, I’d like the mainstream media to step back occasionally….

    Thanks again, Jo

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