Ed Miliband stood up today on a stage in Hyde Park, and was booed. Quite vigorously. And quite loudly. That may well be the story of today’s march. But what we saw today from Ed Miliband what that he has massive balls. Huge, great clunking balls.
First – a note about the march itself. It was a different beast to the last major TUC march held last year. That was a much larger event, with what felt like quite a large number of – for want of a better phrase – “ordinary people”. This march felt like the more traditional lefty march – lots of obscure placards and banners from obscure leftist groups. As one shadow cabinet member who I bumped into early on the march said to me “they’d probably rather be protesting against us, wouldn’t they?”. I’m afraid there’s no probably about it. For a significant chunk of those present at the march today, Labour are as much an enemy (or a greater enemy) as the Tories and their yellow stooges. And those crowded at the front of the stage seemed to be largely anti-Labour, with many of those marching under Labour banners having not even reached Hyde Park by the time Miliband spoke.
So perhaps it’s best to consider Ed Miliband’s treatment at the hands of a vocal few in that light.
That said – Miliband’s speech today was a solid enough one. Rhetorically it wasn’t much different to him widely praised conference speech – although, of course shorter – but it dwelled, deliberately, on the fact that Labour too would need to make cuts. Or as Ed Miliband euphemistically phrased it – hard choices. But to stand in front of a partially hostile crowd today (who would have frankly booed him if he’d announced plans to renationalise the commanding heights of the British economy) and plough through his speech with confidence – despite the catcalls – showed real balls. It would have been easy to stand up today and give platitudes about Tory cuts (which he did) but by going further, he was speaking to the country as a whole, standing by what he believes – not merely pandering to some of those implacable souls stood directly in front of him.
Two years ago, Ed Miliband would have been distracted by the catcalls, but a new more confident Ed Miliband is emerging. In the shape of “One Nation” he has a terminology he’s comfortable with, not just as a framing device, but as a set of ideals that he actually seems to be wedded to. Today will have taken balls to do, and balls to get through. Those who have sometimes doubted Ed Miliband’s bravery and consistency – myself included – got their answer today.
Ed Miliband has balls. And now just in a shadow Treasury sense. And today’s boos will have bounced off him – as they should.