Miliband speech – instant reactions

24th September, 2013 3:54 pm

Ed Miliband has just left conference floor – and as we do every year we’re bringing you instant reactions from LabourList contributors. We’ll be bringing you more as the afternoon goes on.

Mark Ferguson

An integrated health and social care service. Energy bills frozen. Extended childcare. 100,000 new apprentices – and most importantly for me, a million new homes in the next parliament.

Not bad Ed, not bad at all.

Before conference I made a film for the Daily Politics that said Miliband needed to show that he’s a bold leader, up for the fight and bringing the party policies that we can use on the doorstep. We have that now. No-one is being “sent naked onto the doorstep” anymore.

There was a downside. The performance wasn’t as good as it might have been. I thought last year’s delivery was more fluent. I thought the energy of the speech dipped part way through. I think the house building policy – which is potentially transformational – is still yet to be properly defined.

But those are quibbles.

Any suggestion that there’s not now clear red water between Labour and the Tories is dead and gone though. The major push in the coming days is clearly going to be on freezing energy costs for two years after 2015. There is little prospect of the Conservative Party backing price controls – but if they want to argue in favour of spiralling energy profits for (largely) overseas energy companies at a time when people are squeezed, I’d relish that.

That said, to paraphrase the Labour leader “Miliband can do better”. The bar will be set even higher for next year’s speech. But that was still bloody good. In policy terms we now have a platform to fight on, and the last fifteen minutes of the speech was the best delivery he’s managed as Labour leader.

Earlier this week, I said Miliband needed to give people hope. He made a decent fist of that today. He’s provided the basis on which an election can be fought, and won.

Game on.

Owen Jones

If there’s one notion that is dead, deceased, defunct after this speech, it’s that “Labour has no policies”. A million green jobs; a freeze in energy prices; a house building programme and a “use it to lose it” policy for property developers; the end of the hated bedroom tax. Labour activists who have too often been lost for words on the bedroom tax now have something to say. Miliband took on the policies of divide and rule, the merciless redirecting of people’s anger at their falling living standards at the unemployed, private sector, immigrants – anyone but those at the top. But there is still so far to go. What does strengthening the minimum wage mean? Labour needs to commit to a living wage to stop the taxpayer subsidising of poverty pay. Where is the commitment to letting councils build housing? How is he going to create a million green jobs? A coherent alternative to austerity during the longest fall in living standards since the Victorian era is still to emerge. But this was a step in the right direction, will help win public support, and undoubtedly will boost the morale of an all too often deflated activist base.

Marcus Roberts

200,000 affordable homes a year. Raising the minimum wage. Ending the bedroom tax. Guaranteeing childcare.

Labour now has a strong and radical policy agenda. Ed has given activists all the red meat they’ll ever need to get them onto #labourdoorstep in large numbers, winning over more voters one conversation at a time.

But it felt like a policy agenda more taken with what government will do *for* people rather then *with* people. In contrast with the Tory’s winning frame on austerity (shared sacrifice, short term pain for long term gain etc.) Labour is in danger of being painted as a party focused on giving away goodies paid for by someone else.

So the challenge for the Miliband project next is to show how these changes are part of a politics that brings people together in partnership with government, business and community alike. Explaining the work of Arnie Graf or Movement for Change would have really helped here.

We have the right radical policy agenda. Now we need the right radical politics to achieve it.

Stefan Stern

He got there in the end. The speech was a bit too long. The opening didn’t completely work, and I would have liked more structure – a clearer setting out of what the argument was going to be. Miliband was, if anything, slightly too relaxed at first. Impressive confidence, but there is a time for formality, and the start of a party conference speech is probably one of them.
But then it took off. And for the first time we started to get a really strong sense of what a Miliband-led government would be like. Bold enough to intervene, to challenge market orthodoxy, and address injustices. And ambitious enough to aim high, to tell us that “Britain can do better than this”, and that our best days lie ahead. Today Miliband lived up to the challenge set two centuries ago by Napoleon, who said that leaders should be “merchants of hope”. Miliband told us that under him we could hope and expect to see a better country emerge.
The speech was strong too when it came to the nitty gritty of politics. A million new homes, a higher minimum wage, better use of land banks, and a cap on energy prices – these were meaty ideas delivered with force. Best of all perhaps was the confrontational approach Miliband took to David Cameron. It’s clear, Miliband implied, who has the superior intellect and grasp of the big issues. Cameron’s “global race” was always a pretty flimsy notion, a pseudo-Davos soundbite that meant little – or little that was good, anyway. Miliband exposed it mercilessly. He also addressed the question of leadership head on. Miliband is offering a more thoughtful, more intelligent and more decent approach. The hall knew it, and rose to salute it.
It was a long speech, too long, but he got there in the end.

Emma Burnell

That was a little bit of wow. Great jokes at the beginning – most at his own expense – and great positive vision at the end.

The policies are great. Votes at 16, 200,000 new houses a year and a freeze on energy bills. But the speech was not about the policies. It was about Ed. That’s what the “be my guest” section was all about.

Ed kicked it up a gear today. He sounded relaxed, cheerful, appealing and ultimately incredibly confident and assured. This is Ed as leader.

The question is, how do we now take this beyond the conference hall? Ed does give great speeches. But one great speech once a year is not enough, we need to take this momentum into the rest of the year.

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