The Thick of It

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ed Miliband: evolution not revolution

Ed Miliband's conference speech this week didn't represent a breakthrough moment. It shows that he is a leader who has growing potential but he isn't a galactico.

Opinion on both the quality of his speech, its content and plans differ. I noted that many of those who were at the conference we much more impressed than those outside. Of course, many at the conference work closely with Ed and are therefore more likely to agree with him. They often ignored the wooden and unglitzy delivery of the speech. They focused instead on what Ed had to say. Ed, rightly, emphasised at a question and answer session yesterday that he cares more about substance than style. Ultimately that is all that will matter if he gets into power. To reach that point though his delivery and public demeanor will need to continue improving so that voters, people who will never meet him one to one, get to see a bit of the Ed that all those who do meet him know. He cares, gets "it" and is highly personable, much more than his brother. Between them they'd make a perfect leader.

Many of those outside the conference centre and his opponents in the right wing media have kept the question marks up against Ed's leadership. As a result, for the second year running Ed was forced to spend the day after his set piece speech defending himself to the media. Last year it was against the "Red Ed" tags and this year it was stating that he is not anti-business. This is disappointing because it would have been better to have got it right first time and to have planned for the backlash and addressed this directly in the speech.

The content of Ed's speech saw him focus on his values. They are ones that most people will easily be able to identify with, though I'm not sure he can present himself as an "outsider" when he has hardly come from a difficult background. His speech and question and answer session yesterday show that he does understand the key issues voters worry about. His answers also showed someone who knows politically where he needs Labour to fight: against the Tories and for Tory votes, in the centre and not on the left of the political spectrum.

I hope this speech represents the first steps in the right direction for a four to five year journey to a commanding poll lead and election victory. As a leader of potential rather than as a ready made star I don't yet know if that will happen. I hope it does.

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