No wow factor from Ed Miliband as he forgets part of his speech

Joe Otten has already given you his inimitable take on Ed Miliband’s speech. I do love it when he gets cheeky.

I thought I’d stick my oar in as well with a few not quite so witty observations.

Six days ago, I was lucky enough to see Gordon Brown make one of the most incredible speeches I have ever heard. It had some welly behind it. It was absolutely superb. Close to the top of the list of things I never thought I’d say is that Gordon gave me goosebumps, but it really was electric. It had the melody that the Better Together campaign had been lacking, although it was definitely more Motorhead than Idina Menzel. Maybe it spooked Ed, because yesterday he forgot to thank Gordon for the role he’d played in the campaign to keep the country together.

Now Ed, shall we say, doesn’t quite pack the same punch. Today he spoke for far too long. It was all very earnest and it had a theme of Together that kind of worked, but it had no energy behind it. It had all the passion of the slogan of this year’s conference, the stultifying “Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future”. I mean, 8 months out from an election you would assume they had one. Although Ed Balls seemed to spend half his speech yesterday apologising for everything from the 10p tax rate to their failure to regulate the banks – and now they’re asking for another 10 years to fix the country?

Gordon is a natural orator, though. It’s a talent that Ed just doesn’t have. He doesn’t seem to read the audience very well. There was one cringeworthy comment where he asked the audience if the Tories were the answer and they didn’t realised they were supposed to shout “No.”

It was interesting that one person was virtually absent from the speech. Nick Clegg. They’d devoted a whole five minutes of a really awful party political broadcast to him just a few months ago but barely a word today. I doubt he was being polite in the event that he has to face him in coalition negotiations. Labour don’t do polite, especially if their numbers tell them somebody is a negative.  Maybe there’s a bit more respect out there for the Cleggster than they think. It’s certainly the case amongst the voters I talk to in our held seats.

Or maybe they realised that you can’t really slag someone off if you are stealing all their ideas. Mansion Tax? This time it’s paying for the NHS, but it’s not the first time the proceeds have been spent as this handy little graphic from the Lib Dem Press Office shows us:

Labour spend Mansion Tax money 3 times over


And talking of the NHS, they plan to repeal the NHS Bill, but not have another reorganisation of the NHS but they’ll transform it. Have I got that right?

It seemed to me that a lot of Ed’s six point plan is actually based on the logical progression of the policies that the Liberal Democrats have introduced. We’ve done all the heavy lifting on them.

He talked about extending apprenticeships. Well, we’ve already done 1.8 million of them, many more than Labour ever did.

On tax, he said that Labour would close loopholes that the rich use to avoid paying tax. Danny Alexander’s made it his business to close the ones they left from the last government.

He went on about saving the planet, yet we have put more investment into renewables, more than double the Labour average in their last 5 years in power. And when I say “we”, I mean the Liberal Democrats because we know that the Tories don’t give much of a stuff about “green crap.”

What we didn’t realise at the time, though, was that Ed forgot the part of his speech that dealt with the economy and the deficit. The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn tweeted:

The whole thing just seemed a bit scrappy. Their plan doesn’t seem to have any “Wow” factor in it.  Labour need a bit more than not being the Tories to get them through the election. Where’s their ambition?

I don’t rule out the possibility that I may be saying similar things about our pre-manifesto in the run-up to our Conference, but Labour have had 4 years in opposition. Surely they could come up with a more cohesive narrative and some new ideas.

I have to be honest, though, and say that while I feel a bit exasperated by Ed’s speech today, it didn’t turn my stomach in the way that I know David Cameron’s will next week when he comes over all isolationist Little Englander who can’t wait to take away all our human rights. I’m hoping that our people will update the Little Black Book and show exactly what we have stopped them from doing.

If this week’s effort from Labour is anything to go by, though, they have a lot to do in the next few months to get themselves election ready. They aren’t ready from a presentation point of view if today is anything to go by. The referendum campaign in Scotland has exposed its campaigning weakness in its heartlands, too. They weren’t able to organise decent polling day operations in many of them. In marginals, they seem to be able to mount a reasonably strong presence, but there’s little infrastructure anywhere else. On a day when visibility was really important, they just weren’t. What I don’t know is whether that ground operation is as bad in England.

And as far as Scotland is concerned, I’m not convinced that Ed had enough today to convince a Yes leaning Labour voter that all would be well with him.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I found some good things in Miliband’s speech but I had to suspend disbelief and work so-o-o hard.

  • Ed didn’t mention Gordon because he is toxic with English voters and it doesn’t help Ed that he is Gordon’s protege. I honestly don’t get the fuss with Gordon’s speech. He sounded like Gordon always does when he gets passionate – like a demagogue. Not for me.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Sep '14 - 11:38pm

    Ed Miliband’s main priority is not running the country effectively, but his image. Biting the hand that feeds you is not a good economic policy. Especially when have a huge appetite for public spending.

  • “It was interesting that one person was virtually absent from the speech. Nick Clegg.”

    That may have been inadvertent; Clegg has only been conspicuous by his absence from the national debate lately, and possibly Miliband simply overlooked his existence. However, whatever the reason, it’s good politics; Clegg is a walking political corpse right now, and there’s nothing to be gained by further thumping the body. The potential Lib Dem vote is now so small that Labour could hardly hope to mine many more votes from that source, and references to Clegg would be irrelevant to anyone else.

  • John Tilley
    Let’s hope economic stagnation is not part of the overlap as what is really on offer from Labour is back to the future, ie the 1970s.(and the Lib-Lab pact)

  • Bill Le Breton 24th Sep '14 - 6:53am

    There have been two reports recently looking at the Coalition plans for deficit reduction and those of labour, LDs and Tories. I have long wondered and expressed here how the Tories and LD can agree an Autumn Statement in its usual form of a five year programme.

    The substance of the reports including three very interesting diagrams have been distiller here:

    The Labour and LD affinity is obvious. So too is the fact that both Parties’ definition of a surplus excludes investment (infrastructure) spending. Which would allow an affinity to develop on some kind of rebuilding Britain programme.

    Obvious too are the fantasies of these plans across the political frontier. Normally commentators point to the need for more tax increase and more service cuts which will take place in the Parliament and after the election. None of the Parties wishing to draw attention to these during the election and the. Detail being difficult for the press to probe.

    No Party, unless the Greens have, have suggested that there is no need to aim for a surplus in the next Parliament. By my reckoning a 1% surplus in 19/20 would provide an extra £20 billion. For reference LD plans to up the income tax allowance during the Parliament costs £12.5 billion.

    Also the plans are based on the achievements of growth, especially in the early years of the Parliament which I think could well be exceeded. They are also based on the size of Nominal. gross Domestic Product this year which I also think will be exceeded.

    This is important because service cuts and tax increases may be pushed by the Treasury, by grunts from the Bank of England, and by the media which are not necessary and will be damaging both to recovery and long term welfare and quality of life in this country. The Bank of England is still the most powerful decider in the fate of recovery, way more important than who wins in May 2015. Unless Parties wake up to the need to widen the Bank’s mandate to include some target for employment as is the case in the USA (or combining inflation and employment effectively with a NGDP target)

    Anyway, it is the affinity between Labour plans and those of LD which I think explain any silence over Clegg in the Labour Leader’s speech. Again, as I have said elsewhere the election is about two battles; the battle between Labour and LD for a certain bucket of votes , a battle which is not won paradoxically by one of the parties denigrating the other, and a second battle between the Tories and UKIP , in which the Tories must persuade the pool of voters that UKIP is unnecessary rather than wrong.

    My guess is that already friends of Clegg are talking to friends of Miliband . For Miliband the trick is to make tactical voting by Labour supporters work in certain seats BUT not to allow 2010 Lib Dem voters now supporting Labour elsewhere to leave their camp. Tricky but not impossible. Yesterday’s speech will not have harmed that tactic.

    And the LDs? Clearly that would help us defend many of our seats and therefore expect a similar curtesy offered in the Leader’s speech in Glasgow. Silence will be golden.

  • Mack (not a Lib Dem) 24th Sep '14 - 8:18am

    Labour will implement the Mansion Ta.x. The Liberal Democrats voted against itheir own Mansion tax when Labour gave them the opportunity to support it in the Houes of Commons.

  • Isn’t the Milliband approach like taking out an “interest-only” mortgage and then after six or so years when you were not even paying back the interest saying OK please can I have a new mortgage based on the value of the house and the debts I have not paid back over the last six years.

    Keynes is well known for advocating running a deficit when times are bad to keep unemployment down but I recall he also advocated running a surplus in the good years.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Sep '14 - 9:26am

    @Bill Le Breton:

    “My guess is that already friends of Clegg are talking to friends of Miliband .”

    They have friends?? Have you seen their personal poll ratings? 😉

    The ‘accidental ‘failure of Labour’s ‘leader’ to mention the two areas of policy where he has the most trouble is very telling. The Freudian Slip has been replaced by the Miliband Muff.

  • Millibands speech seemed to be aimed at cheering up demoralised Labour activists rather than pitching to the rest of us, for that purpose it was OKish. I am sure that Ed genuinely Forgot the Deficit, thats the problem; Labour in Power would forget it too. Economics isnt something that sticks in Labour heads, it just slips away.
    I wonder if Journalists will come to see Millibands Speech as the moment Labour lost The Election ? Thats nonsense of course, Labour lost 2015 in 2001.

  • @Jedi

    ““A mansion tax could wipe almost £1bn off government revenues, deterring wealthy investors from buying in London, according to new research from Savills.””

    But isn’t that the whole problem with the shortage of housing. To many foreign investors are snapping up London properties as “investments” rather than homes that people actually need to live in.

    We need to address this problem, British Homes for British people to live in, Not wealthy Russian, Chinese, who are only buying the property as an investment and will probably only stay in the property one week a year if were lucky.

    If a mansion tax makes these “investments” less attractive, then that’s great in my opinion, use the properties as they where intended for family homes.

  • mack (Not a Lib dem) 24th Sep '14 - 10:39am

    @ Paul Barker
    “I wonder if Journalists will come to see Millibands Speech as the moment Labour lost The Election ?”

    Of course they will: apart from a few rare and isolated exceptions the journalists in this country are paid to produce copy that ensures Labour stays out of power. Many of the most successful and influential journalists live in homes that would attract the Mansion Tax and would be paying 50 pence in the pound under a Labour Government. That’s why we in the Labour Party take no notice of them.

  • mack (Not a Lib dem) 24th Sep '14 - 10:43am

    ‘ “With more than 100,000 homes to be affected by this new levy, it is somewhat misleading to call it a ‘mansion tax’ when many three bed family homes in London and the south east would find themselves caught by it.” ‘

    Such a shame: they’ll have to give up their spare bedrooms and downsize into a smaller property. And what produced the conditions under which this state of affairs was created? Thatcherite Housing policies continued under this Coalition Government.

  • Wouldn’t a land value tax be the best option? And I can’t believe Ed would introduce a mansion tax solely in England that would have Barnett consequentials. That would be insane.

    John Tilley – I thought Osborne was against any further tax rises? Which makes me think his plans are draconian. I’m amazed at how the government keeps getting away with it s fiscal plans. Don’t forget that eliminating the deficit was the government’s central mission. And yet we have news this week that borrowing isn’t coming down.

  • mack (Not a Lib dem) 24th Sep '14 - 11:15am

    I found Ed Miliband’s speech truly inspiring. That’s because I am influenced by policies, not the personality of the person presenting them. And many of our policies should appeal to Lib Dem voters. Perhaps that’s why the Lib Dems and the biased media are describing it as underwhelming.

    By the way, it’s strange how Gordon Brown is now being canonized when just a few years ago he was being vilified and ridiculed by the Tories, the Liberal Democrats (Clegg made his departure a sine qua non for a coalition, remember) and the whole of the British media. I’ve always known Gordon was a genius who saved this country’s banking system and the world’s economies, so the fact that he substantially saved The Union is no surprise to me. But Gordon is now being resurrected as a politician par excellence by all those people who vilified and ridiculed him in the past to compare him with Ed Miliband as part of their attacking strategy for diminishing the Labour Leader. I never recall Gordon’s enemies describing him as passionate or brilliant before: but I do recall the many disgraceful, innacurate and insulting comments they made about him at the time of the last General election. . In this respect, a new low in hypocrisy has been plumbed by the Right Wing and its media. . It is quite sickening.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Sep '14 - 11:30am

    Of course, if Miliband had attacked Clegg, you would have taken that as evidence of his continuing relevance, Caron! We should be more worried, you would surely have said, if he didn’t mention Nick at all.
    And you would have been right.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Sep '14 - 11:33am

    The canonisation of the old leader by the party’s opponents is as old as the hills, but people still fall for it. I remember right-wing Tories in the 80s waxing misty-eyed about the honourable old Labour Party of Gaitskell and Nye Bevan (!), unlike the evil socialists Foot & Benn.

    But of course, it cuts both ways. Labour MPs are not averse to regretting the death of good old Macmillanite “one nation” Toryism; and some have been heard to say that at least Thatcher had principles and guts, unlike this lot. Plus ca change…

  • mack (Not a Lib dem) 24th Sep '14 - 11:41am

    @ Malcolm Todd

    You’re absolutely right and perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. But around 30 years elapsed between the removal from power of the examples you give and their cynical canonization. Gordon appears to have been given a very fast track to sainthood indeed.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Sep '14 - 12:04pm

    “Gordon appears to have been given a very fast track to sainthood indeed.”

    Well, it’s the age of twitter you know. To some young voters, Brown probably feels like something from thirty years ago…

  • I never make decisions from speeches. Hitler was extremely good at them.

  • Nick Clegg, The name rings a bell. Didn’t he used to be famous?
    I’was a speech lite on substance.

  • One detail in this catches my eye — Savilles’ projection that a mansion tax would knock £1bn off government revenues by deterring investors. That actually makes it sound a master stroke — though not the short-term panacea that some suggest. Mour absurdly-inflated property prices seem to be driven by people investing at the top end of the market. If taxation could let the steam out of the top of the market it would be good for all of us, by reducing the economic struggle occasioned by excessive house prices.

  • Stephen Donnelly 24th Sep '14 - 9:47pm

    Clearly Labour are not being honest about the fact they will need to make cuts, and increase taxes. The extra money for the NHS will not ‘transform’ the service and there is no mention of the £30 billion funding short fall.

    The one virtue the Tories have on this subject is that we all know what to expect if they get a chance to govern alone. Our public services would be destroyed (not reformed) in much the same way that Thatcher wiped out our industrial base.

    The challenge for us is to tell the truth. Public services cannot continue to be provided at the current level, and in the current form without reform, cuts, increased taxes.

    What do we have to lose?

  • How much has been reclaimed by the treasury from the NHS? Efficiency savings and all, I believe the original idea (under the Nicholson challenge) was to re-invest such savings into the service. So, has that been done?

    Some other ways of saving money that have been proposed include getting rid of the internal market (a pointless level of bureaucracy that adds nothing and in no way represents a free market, but hugely favours private firms who do not have to release their results, wait times, complaints, or anything else that might be relevent which the NHS does), re-negotiating PFI deals (which are a massive cost, and not only hamper improvements via outrageous repayments but also put a monopoly on structural changes so that building a new angioplasty suite (with no equipment in it) costs 10 times as much as it would do if the hospital just hired a building firm from the yellow pages, or bulk-buying and standardisation of equipment across sites, so that say, 3 hospitals can all upgrade their CT scanners by doing a bulk order together and getting a better deal (but that’s been deemed wrong because it’s not trusts competing against each other, despite all that hollow empty rhetoric of a “joined up health service”).

    So there’s some ways that the NHS could save money, and that money could be used to improve services. That money could provide new cancer treatments, or help fund NICE and give us more info on the most effective treatments,

    Unfortunately, none of those ideas involves increasing stock-prices for private firms. They’re all just things that would actually help the service heal or assist ill people, there’s no boost to the FTSE in there. So of course in the current political landscape they’re all nonsense. Much better just to shout “It’s completely unaffordable!!” while we sign off another huge subsidy to G4S/Capita/Sodexo/PWC to do the same job that was done before, only at greater cost and with no public oversight, and also they can stop doing it if it becomes unprofitable unless we bail them out.

    So how much was taken back by the treasury from the NHS? And how much is the NHS deficit? Seriously, I’d love to hear some answers to this

  • Simon F

    Reclaimed funds to the Treasury:
    £2.2bn in 2013, £1bn in 2012 & £1.9bn in 2011. I haven’t been able to find any figures for 2010 if such sums existed then.

    The NHS deficit was reported on 20/03/14 as being £456.8m

    “NHS hospitals will end the financial year in the red for the first time in eight years, according to official figures, with 26 loss-making trusts reporting a combined deficit of £456.8m.”

    It’s scandalous that the Treasury claws back billions whilst hospitals are then left in deficit, leading Hunt to declare them inefficient, reduce funding then the CQC declares them unsafe & puts them into special measures !

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