Ed Miliband’s leader’s speech: my first impressions

Well, that’s one job done: the new Labour leader (but not the New Labour leader: absolutely not) has got through his first, major task: to deliver his speech to the party conference. It seemed to me to best understood as a ‘detoxifying’ speech. Just as David Cameron’s biggest achievement as Tory leader was to make it almost respectable to vote for his party, so was Ed Miliband attempting to cast off the most illiberal and unpopular aspects of the last Labour government (even though he was a member of its cabinet).

Perhaps inevitably this meant the focus of the speech was pretty blurry. On the one hand, there was a deeply personal and affecting tribute to his parents’ battle to flee the Nazis and make new lives for themselves in Britain; on the other hand, questioning the free movement of labour within the EU. On the one hand, he stressed the importance of cutting the deficit (slowly and gradually); on the other, he listed a range of uncosted aspirations, such as the living wage. On the one hand he consciously referenced those great Liberal reformers of yore, Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge; on the other hand, he continued the Labour leadership’s silly abbreviating of the Liberal Democrats to Liberals. (Not that I mind us being called Liberals; it’s the pettiness of the gesture which grates.) On the one hand he claimed the mantle of optimism; on the other he painted a doom-and-gloom picture of Britain in the next five years.

His delivery will doubtless improve with practise: there were a number of simple verbal slips, and he sometimes just looked too earnestly ‘preachy’. At times he looked stiff and awkward behind the podium.

The interesting question, though, is where he positions the Labour party in politics. Today’s speech seemed a conscious pitch for the liberal-left vote which the Lib Dems have sometimes successfully attracted, and which appears at risk in the new Coalition politics.

Yet the policies he praised — with the exception of cutting the deficit — were almost all already Coalition policy, mostly as a result of the Lib Dems being in government: electoral reform, an elected House of Lords, devolving power to local government, shorter prison sentences to reduce re-offending, a review of stop-and-search powers, welfare reform… all were name-checked in the speech, all are now happening only because Labour is no longer in government blocking them.

Not that I think there’s much mileage in attacking the new Labour leader simply because much of what he says contradicts what he was saying up until a few months ago. Yes, the freedom-loving Ed Miliband of today was the same Ed Miliband who voted for 90-days detention without trial, and ID cards, and control orders. Yes this Iraq war-opposing Ed Miliband was the same Ed Miliband who voted against an independent investigation into it. And yes, this was the same climate change-combating Ed Miliband who green-lighted the third runway at Heathrow and failed to vote for measures which would, for example, ensure climate change was considered as part of major planning applications. And yes, this was the same political reforming Ed Miliband who failed to vote in 2008 to open up MPs’ expenses to external audit. And yes, this was the same Ed Miliband who wrote the party’s 2010 general election manifesto but now appears to repudiate much of what it contained. But, still, we’re a party which believes in second chances, that welcomes the repenting sinner.

If Ed Miliband wants the Labour party now to compete on the same territory as the Lib Dems, liberals across the political spectrum will welcome this. Sure, it might make our campaigning tougher. But, believe me, after the last 13 years of a fundamentally illiberal government, one which trampled on individual liberty at home while mounting a catastrophic foreign policy, I will cheer if — and I stress if — there is now a Labour leader ready to back pluralist, liberal policies in the years ahead.

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60 Comments

  • LibDemKitty 28th Sep '10 - 4:47pm

    Just how credible would it be for Labour to suddenly claim to represent civil liberties etc?

  • Steve the Greek 28th Sep '10 - 4:56pm

    Come on lets not play the hypocrisy card, or we will have to face the No Vat increase or it penalises the poor, scrapping tuition fees, no trident, electoral reform etc.

  • LibDemKitty 28th Sep '10 - 5:02pm

    Steve the Greek – we are getting electoral reform (MP recall, HoL reform, AV referendum), Trident is as Mark Pack put it “up in the air”, an alternative to tuition fees is on the cards – and if you seriously believe that a single poster about a VAT rise, which was *not* party policy, is the same as 13 years of highly authoritarian and illiberal actual manifesto pledges and legislation, then you need your head examining. Or has the Labour brainwashing damaged your brain cells beyond repair?

  • Steve the Greek 28th Sep '10 - 5:05pm

    Thanks Libdem kitty, one of the things I like about debating with the Lib Dems is that they don’t use old fashioned attack methods or insults, still if it’s sore scratch it I always say xx

  • @LibDemKitty ..Attack is the best form of defence i see kitty,if you want labour to support lib dem ideas you will have to put your sword away and use the pen instead.

  • Joe Anderson 28th Sep '10 - 5:07pm

    LibDemKitty: Delighted to see you were just implying it was Party policy then and misleading voters.

  • Paul McKeown 28th Sep '10 - 5:13pm

    He has parked his tanks firmly on Cowley Street. However, he needs to develop credibility on economic matters; I’m not sure how credible it is to wish to raise taxes even further, as they are already just about as high as they could possibly. I wonder will the future of the once “temporary” 50% income tax band is to become a new dividing line in British politics. My view is that it is unsustainable in the long term, and only acceptable now due to the current economic catastrophe, as the self employed and employers might end up taking him as little as 34% or so of every pound (after NI) earned over £150K. Fine these people are very well off, but are we really telling them that we don’t value their contribution to the economy? I know Loathsome Eddie wants to levy the 50% band from £100K, but no one is going to listen to him, I suspect. However, Ed Miliband will probably want to retain the 50% band as it currently stands. I can see the next GE being fought between Tories demanding tax cuts for the wealthy, Labour demanding even higher taxes, whilst Lib Dems take a moderate position in between, with tax cuts for the poorer worker and no dramatic change over all in the tax burden.

    I welcome Miliband supporting the Living Wage, I would hope all Lib Dems would support that. I welcome also his welcome of the current government’s stance on civil liberties and constitutional reform. Tell me why I don’t believe a word (all of them good, of course) about climate change and a green economy?

  • Paul McKeown 28th Sep '10 - 5:16pm

    Sorry about the grammar in that previous post – abysmal – written in too much haste! The intention should be clear in any case.

  • There is a difference Steve the Greek et al – We are in a coalition, and our policy remains in place, but it is give and take. Labour have had no substantial reason to suddenly change their policy (coming out of power is not a reason to back the elected Lords if the Lib Dems have just achieved it by going into power for example). Kitty’s points are valid, and helpful in policy terms. But we can at least welcome EdMili’s apparent conversion. The key word, as is made clear in the article is the if.

  • Steve the Greek 28th Sep '10 - 5:21pm

    A policy in place with no means to enact it is as useful as a chocolate fireguard or as a party that raises the hopes of millions of kids in college and then betrays us, for epediency shameful I’ afraid and makes me embarrassed to canvas for us

  • Steve the Greek 28th Sep '10 - 5:22pm

    espediency that is!

  • Steve the Greek 28th Sep '10 - 5:22pm

    oops expediency must have been a freudian slap!

  • Paul McKeown 28th Sep '10 - 5:26pm

    Liberal politics is going to get crowded, with Liberal Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and now a seemingly Liberal Labour party. The LDs will need to think smart and come up with distinctive, but appealing policies, to avoid being squeezed at the next General Election.

  • And the Orange Tories’ cuts are not illiberal? Grinding down the poorest and most vulnerable in society in order protect bankers bonuses? I did not vote for Ed Miliband but having listened to his speech I am very glad that he was elected. It is now apparent that he was the only Labour leader who could successfully and honourably draw a line under Iraq. He has said that it was wrong. Millions who have been betrayed by the Orange Tories’ can now come back to Labour. I know this is anecdotal evidence but some of my relatives who were members of the ‘Not in my name’ brigade and marched against the war are seriously considering becoming members of the Labour party again. Extraordinary. And can you blame them? What on earth have Clegg and the other Orange Tories done to warrant their loyalty? Every day it becomes more and more apparent that that the Orange Tory and Blue Tory coalition does not run very deep at local level. In fact, it appears to be a coalition in name only, and is sustained by a few leading Orange Tories and several Blue Tories sitiing together uncomfortably in government without any kind of mandate from the electorate. It is also rapidly descending into farce: sex scandals and the business secretary attacking capitalism! Its demise can not be far off.

  • A lot will turn on the shadow cabinet. It will be hard to paint himself as leader of a new generation if the same old vanguard are sitting around the table with him.

    But, a good speech (text anyway, didn’t see the delivery). But we have heard talk of change, and new politics many times before from all sides. But if he means what he said, and he sticks to it, then it bodes well for a mature and sensible political dialogue over the next few years.

  • Stuart Mitchell 28th Sep '10 - 5:38pm

    LibDemKitty: “Just how credible would it be for Labour to suddenly claim to represent civil liberties etc?”

    If Teresa “Pro-Clause 28” May can get away with portraying herself as a pro-civil liberties home secretary – wth the enthusiastic endoresement of Lib Dems – then there shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Paul McKeown 28th Sep '10 - 5:41pm

    “Orange Tories”

    Trolling, trolling, trolling, cheap snide…

    Wrecking the economy as Labour has done – yes there was a world recession, Saint Gordon saved the world, yada yada yada – by raising public expenditure without matching it with tax receipts or allowing for lower tax receipts during a downturn, it the worst imaginable way in which to improve the life chances of the worst off.

    You can tell yourself comforting lies about evil Orange Tories, but the grown ups know that extremely difficult and painful choices have to be made, if the British economy is not to sink below a tidal wave of debt. How the apolitical electorate will react in the long term is, in general, speculation, and in your case ridiculously partisan chanting. If all you wish to do is rant without substance, what is the point?

    I do hope you are comfortable and warm on the sidelines with your rattle and scarf.

  • TheContinentalOp 28th Sep '10 - 6:02pm

    For those who voted Lib Dem at the election this was a very enticing speech. A lot of what he was saying was exactly what I had previously believed to be the core principles of the Lib Dems.

    The key question though is will he follow up this talk with real policies and commitments. And will his MPs follow him. If he does and if they do then they will win a lot of voters disillusioned by Clegg’s steer to the right.

    I don’t mind admitting I will be one of them.

  • @Paul McKeown

    But Paul, the Lib Dems were never consistent of the economy.

    TO blame Labour for the economy when the Tories were asking for MORE deregulation, and asked Labour NOT to bail out the banks…. and OPPOSED quantative easing. And then for David Cameron to admit he was wrong on all of these without his judgement being criticised once, is apalling hypocrisy.

    The Liberal Democrats keep making a lot of noise because they are the only party that made the right calls on the economy. I accepted that as a member, and voted for them on that basis. Yet this narrative is really getting thin… ‘Labour recked the economy’… what about the Tories and their horrendous right-wing media which made it almost impossible to govern without pandering to the Daily Mail?

    And for the Lib Dems… I voted for them at the last election on their calls on the economy… as that was the right thing to do. I certainly won’t be voting for them at the next election based solely on their economic judgement. You judge a party on its actions of the course of a parliament, not its entire history (otherwise nobody would ever vote pro-slavery Tory).

    That said, there is also the fact that the party did not have the responsibility of making the decisions…. they could safely complain from the sidelines because they had no responsibility and their votes were not necessary on many issues. Now that they are in power they must live with their positions.

    If the Lib Dems can’t make a case to vote for them based on this parliament then why should I vote to keep them at the next election?

    Clegg should be very afraid. Ed Miliband is clearly trying to cover exactly the same ground as the Lib Dems did at the last election. If the Labour party supports AV, then the Lib Dems will have nothing ‘unique’ to offer their members. Just Tory policies with a voting policy that Labour is offering as well.

    It seems quite clear that Cameron is inteding to crush us by moving into the Liberal right… and Ed is doing it via the Liberal left. And you know what, if Clegg doesn’t pull himself together and start representing the whole party … then Ed’s stratergy might work on me.

    Have you asked yourself the question what would happen about the YV debates if UKIP got a higher percentage in the polls than the Lib Dems?

  • I saw Ed Miliband’s conference speech on television. As someone who voted Liberal Democrat in the last three general elections because I perceived them to be to the left of Labour, there was much to cheer. It has given me a reason to vote Labour again after many years.

  • “Red ED?” HA! Yellow Ed more like! He’s just accepted every Lib Dem argument of the last decade! 😀

  • Ifd we get AV I currently intend to put Lib Dems as my first choice just to help them survive, but I will put Labour as my second choice as we are in a Con/Lab marginal… 4th most marginal in the country (and at the moment, I’m beginning to root more and more for Labour).

  • Good for you Rob – that’s exactly what AV is about.

  • Just where was he when his Labour Party was doing the opposite of what he now calls for – eg Iraq – quite simply – I cannot remember him arguiing against it – civil liberties – what a laugh – has he had some king of conversion? I wouldnt trust him at all – good on AV though!

  • I find some of the comments here odd. We seem to be having a go at a party leader for agreeing with us! Mad!

    There’s still enough for us to disagree with: immigration for one, but this, if it is real, can only be good news.

  • @David

    Cameron had a Damacene conversion, why can’t Miliband?

  • @• Paul McKeown

    I have never owned a rattle or a scarf in my life and I loathe football, but I don’t despise those who do. Hardly demotic of you, which I gather is what Orange Tories claim to be with all their cant about civil liberties. Of course painful choices have to be made, but they are not choices which are going to affect the pockets of politicians, only the poor people who are going to be affected by those choices. What is wicked, truly wicked about the Orange Tories is that they do such dreadful things, sanctimoniously, to please their Blue Tory pals for whom they are a human shield. A tidal wave of debt? Now who’s ranting? Your focus on tax receipts is revealing. Can we possibly inveigle you into supporting large tax increases for the very rich? Why not impose — um — let me see, a Mansion Tax for example? Oh, of course, that was abandoned when the Orange Tories entered into their Molotov/Ribbentrop pact!

  • Paul McKeown 28th Sep '10 - 7:21pm

    @mpg

    Yes, Ed Miliband has decided to change the Labour party into a Liberal Labour party, for which he should be congratulated. Comments about what took him so long are merely a token sign of frustration.

    Has anyone noticed his recent interest in Land Value Taxation, which would potentially represent a dramatic shift in the burden of taxation from the wage slave to the landed wealthy.

    Could this be the basis for future Lib Dem / Labour co-operation, rather like the 10K BRI threshold has for the current Lib Dem / Conservative coalition? It has after all been something Lib Dems and Liberals have been dreaming about for, perhaps, a century…

  • Paul McKeown 28th Sep '10 - 7:27pm

    @MacK

    “Molotov/Ribbentrop pact?”

    Godwin, already? If you wish to engage in discussion, you should perhaps mind your P’s and Q’s.

    Mansion Tax – a good idea. Even better is the LVT proposal that Ed Miliband seems interested in, as have the Liberal Democrats for a long time. Taxing income at rates of 50% and beyond doesn’t actually raise much in the way of revenue, but is a disincentive and has the potential to lead to capital flight, as we have recently seen, for example, with Wolseley, a major employer. LVT, as the LD’s have long pointed out, is much harder to evade and more disruptive to flee. Partisan tropes and snide slights about motive don’t raise revenue effectively.

  • TheContinentalOp 28th Sep '10 - 7:56pm

    This repositioning by Ed Milliband could make things very awkward for Nick Clegg and Cameron. If Labour stake a genuine claim – and that remains an ‘If’ – for what was traditionally Lib Dem ground then Clegg has a real dilema.

    If he continues proping up unpopular Conservative policies then those many Lib Dem voters who have become disillusioned by the coalition won’t have to look too far to find a new home. However he will not be able to vigorously and loudly defend this position without seriously undermining his pact with the Tories.

    It terms of unsettling the Orange Bookers this is a far more effective tactic than tribalistic vitriol. For those of us who want the back the Lib Dems we thought we voted for it us also very good news.

    Interesting times – and a few sleepless nights – ahead for Mr Clegg.

  • Remember how we chuckled when it turned out that “Tony Blair” was an anagram of “I’m Tory Plan B”. Well guess what, “Ed Milliband” is an anagram of “Lib Dem and I”. 😀

    Has anyone seen the clip of his speech where David Miliband allegedly tells Harriet H off for clapping at the anti-Iraq war jibe by saying “Why are you clapping? You voted for it!”?

  • @ Stephen Tall
    His delivery will doubtless improve with practise: there were a number of simple verbal slips

    Just like failure to distinguish correctly between “practice” and “practise” 🙂

    More seriously, as someone who’s voted Liberal/LibDem at every election since 1979, but uncomfortable with/nervous about the Coalition, though prepared to reserve judgment, I’ve been very impressed with Ed Milliband so far.

  • Like many others on the left of the party, Ed Miliband’s speech and its contrast with Nick’s Tory Lite offering last week have given me much food for thought. What Nick does next, his tone and his ability to differentiate us within the Coalition are important.

  • paul barker 28th Sep '10 - 8:26pm

    Hasnt Labour always been more Liberal in opposition ? There was a lot of good stuff in the speech but didnt that nice Mr Blair say some things we liked ? Lets see if the new Labour leadership expend any political capital in fighting for AV.

  • Can the Daily Mail get anymore rabid and anti Jewish

  • @paul barker – Yes! The Lib Dems have killed two birds with one stone: we made the Tories more liberal by going into coalition with them, and we made Labour more liberal by forcing them into opposition! And people say we have no influence…hahahahahahaaaa! Sweet Double-kill! 🙂

  • @David

    Just where was he when his Labour Party was doing the opposite of what he now calls for – eg Iraq – quite simply – I cannot remember him arguiing against it

    He may well have argued against Iraq but you would have struggled to hear him as he was teaching at Harvard at the time. He was only elected in 2005.

  • @MBoy
    “sweet double kill” ? I take your point. But if you wanted to come dooor to door with me in my area you would get a sense of the fear engendered by the Coalition’s cuts talk with Laws (briefly but setting a tone), Alexander and Clegg as some of the worst culprits. From that you might recognise the difficulties we will face next May.

  • Frankly Ed probably would have gone along with Iraq, he don’t vote for an inquiry.

    That said, what is important is not what he would have done… more to do with how he positioned himself.

    Realistically most Labour politicians who voted for Iraq probably did so due to their career, not because they believed anything one way or the other. I suspect David was one of them and Ed would have been.

    The fact he wasn’t around to prove me right means that he can reject the legacy of Iraq. That is the best we are going to get, and frankly all that I care about. Even if Ed is a hypocrite he rejected Labour’s anti-civil liberties stance and its stance on Iraq. He is moving the party ina direction I find much more agreeable as a Lib Dem. The question is whether Labour will come to represent us left-lib dems better than we are represented by Clegg who rejects us and tells ex-Labour voters to leave.

  • Andrew Suffield 28th Sep '10 - 10:01pm

    Yet this narrative is really getting thin… ‘Labour recked the economy’… what about the Tories and their horrendous right-wing media which made it almost impossible to govern without pandering to the Daily Mail?

    I do not think you will find (m)any Lib Dems who are interested in defending the Tories. (Or Labour, for that matter)

    It’s a coalition by the numbers and on the basis of agreements. It is not a declaration of support.

  • @ johng “Just like failure to distinguish correctly between “practice” and “practise””

    Erm, not unless it’s changed from being a verb to a noun since I wrote that.

    ???

    you used “practise”, ie the verb, whereas surely it should be “practice”, ie the noun?

    Or maybe my grammar isn’t what it should be.

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11426413
    It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  • I welcome the attitude of “constructive opposition” EdMil spells out in his speech; the NoNeverNothingbettertooffer-attitude from labour in the last few months was getting really tiresome.

    Now we’ll have to see if he can walk the walk… the unions reps sure didn’t seem happy when he talked about them.

  • “the liberal-left vote which the Lib Dems have sometimes successfully attracted, and which appears at risk in the new Coalition politics.”

    A large part of which the Liberals and Lib Dems (till now) have captured – certainly in my political lifetime, I regret to say, a lot longer than yours, Stephen.

  • Can we stop all this claptrap that Nick Clegg has moved the Lib Dems to the right. He’s a Liberal. Not right, not left…LIBERAL! I get so fed up of having to be defined in relation to black/white, red/blue. It’s so simplistic and frankly quite boring. Politics is a lot more shades of grey than the media or indeed those of us involved give it credit. The significance of Ed M’s speech is that he said he’d back AV. Get AV and all this tribal nonsense will be no more. Yes we’ll have our views and our allegiences but we will be able to express our views more broadly. And it will mean all 3 main parties will have to get used to collaborating and working for the long-term benefit of this country. The big question is whether Labour party members can actually bring themselves to follow their leader and vote for AV. Or will they be too scared they’ll have to give away a little power to other alternatives to the Tories than them. Let’s face it, that’s the major issue for these people. They’ve hated it since there’s been a progressive alternative to them. Which is why the Lib Dems get far more vitriol from Labour than the Tories do. Well it’s time for Labour members to grow. It appears their leader has, can they? If they can, politics can finally be changed for good. If they can’t we’ll have lost it for a generation. There’s a lot riding on Labour. Makes me a little nervous…

  • To get back on topic….

    I thought the key message for Lib Dems was support for AV (and a number of other Lib Dem policies). Very wise of him to adopt AV since he owes his election to it and would have been pilloried if he then opposed it but I am surprised that he got out so quickly in front on the issue. Hopefully, he will give it some support which will both increase the likelihood of it passing and make the Labour party a much more likely partner for the Lib Dems next time around.

    The delivery might have been a bit pedestrian but the content and positioning were well judged (although the Iraq war reference was probably a mistake in terms of the Labour party and relations with his brother).

  • Nigel – he may have been at Harvard in 2003 – but he was elected in 2005 – what exactly did he have to say on Iraq for the past 5 years? Civil Liberties? Economic policy – he helped to write this one – I think there is a lot of potential here for a big bust up with brother and his mates.

  • @Paul McKeown

    “Molotov/Ribbentrop pact?”

    “Godwin, already? If you wish to engage in discussion, you should perhaps mind your P’s and Q’s.”

    How illiberal of you when you know that Godwin’s law is used by those who wish to censor and suppress
    free discourse on the web. Actually, I compared the Orange Tory and Blue Tory coalition agreement to the Molotov/Ribbentrop pact because it is the paradigm of cynical pacts; not because I was suggesting that either the Orange or Blue Tories are Nazis or Communists,. that would be absurd. Then again, Vince Cable did start his speech by addressing the delegates as comrades! But I suspect that he would dismiss that as just a bit of banter, the same kind of banter he employed at the general election when he suggested that the economic recovery would be damaged by cutting too deeply and too quickly. Just banter. Not to be taken too seriously.

    Glad to hear of your support for the Mansion Tax and the Land Value Tax. The latter particularly recommends itself because of its virtues which are that It would treat all owners alike; It would take into account rises and falls in land values: it could be a reliable and sustained source of revenue; It could be payable whatever the state of development of the land and might act as an incentive for owners of unused land to develop it, seek planning permission or put it on the market; it could prove difficult to avoid or evade the tax; it could make land prices fall because land would be more expensive to hold on to: as prices fell more land might become available.

    However, a word of caution is necessary: Labour has invariably run into difficulty with its Land Acts over the years. One of the major problems is defining what actually constitutes land, and the virtues of the tax outlined above could be extremely damaging to the rural environment and result in the unintended consequence of unrestrained development. Not something a greener Labour party under Ed Miliband might wish to encourage. A Transaction Tax however, is very a good idea, if it can easily be implemented.

    Has no-one commented yet on what Ed Miliband’s remarks about Iraq are going to do to our relationship with the Americans? It is too early to say but I see already great similarities between Ed Miliband and Harold Wilson, who, famously, of course, kept the Americans at a distance and Britain out of the Vietnam War.

  • > The Liberal Democrats keep making a lot of noise because they are the only party that made the right calls on the economy

    Why does this claim keep popping up? The Lib Dems did not make the right calls on the economy. I have looked at the 2005 manifesto and saw nothing to prevent the crisis.

    If they had been, we might not be where we are today.

    And why is AV such a big deal? What positive benefit will it bring? And I do not mean what can we speculate might happen with AV

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Sep '10 - 11:15am

    Why is it so hard for Labour Party people who were involved in the decision to admit that their support for the Iraq war was a mistake? Miliband (D)’s reaction to Miliband (E)’s acceptance of that mistake says it all. What a far better man Miliband (D) would have come across as if he could just have agreed with his brother “Yes, we got it wrong on Iraq”.

    How hugely different it would have been had Blair himself long ago admitted “Yes, it was a mistake, but not one made with bad intentions”. I always felt this, but it seemed to be crushed between the Trot line which too many in our party picked up and repeated “Blair is an evil war-mongerer under the thumb of Bush”, and the Blair line that the Iraq war was all going to plan.

    I know how strong it was at the time to think what an evil man Saddam Hussein was, how impossible he had made it for the people of his country to dispose of him, and how surely if we sent troops in to topple him, something better would soon arise. Of course the Trots would never see it that way because, despite their use of the slogan “neither Washington nor Moscow”, they were still largely a group which behaved as if paid by Moscow gold i.e. their politics was (and still is) “Whatever the USA is doing, oppose it”. Hence a nasty dictator who they wanted to oppose in all ways possible when he was the USA’s man became not such a bad chap when he stupidly (for him) went the other way. But why did most Liberal Democrats go along with the Trot line, which only seemed to push Blair more into denial about the mistake he had made? The reality was he was stupid, he hadn’t thought this through, he hadn’t engaged with the experts on the locality who told him why it wouldn’t work as he supposed. That was Blair all along. I think, however, “stupid Blair” rather than “evil Blair” would have been the better line of attack. And remember, most of those killed after the invasion were killed by fellow Iraqis in the nasty civil war it sparked – I think it wrong not to admit that as the Trots won’t.

    It’s funny to read media comment now written as if Charles Kennedy led us into opposing the Iraq war, whereas the reality was that Kennedy had to be kicked by party grassroots into taking an oppositional stance. But also we should recall what a big gamble it was. Had things worked as Blair suppposed, we would forever be tagged with “if we had things your way, Saddam would still be gassing and torturing the Iraqis”.

    So, we LibDems gambled and got it right, the bulk of Labour gambled and got it wrong. These things happen – it was on a hugely bigger scale the sort of dilemma social workers face on when to take a kid away from a possibly abusive situation and when not to. If they get it wrong either way, there are plenty of stupid populists willing to make political capital by abusing them.

    In general, I think the speech shows the right Miliband won. It may have been vague on specifics, but it does look forward to building a Labour Party which, unlike the one we had in May 2010, has something useful to say and may in time be one we could work with.

  • What an easy world it is for Ed Milliband’s New Generation New Progressives. Nothing that went wrong under New Labour is his New Generation New Progressives’ fault. Iraq War – I wasn’t there at the time (That’s Tony’s legacy); Gordon Brown’s Economic Disaster – not my financial crisis (in fact it belongs to the Conservatives and the Lib Dems now – HO, HO, HO); paying massively over the odds for new hospitals and schools – (Let’s ignore that, the massive profits bankers made from it didn’t form part of bankers’ bonuses- Honest!); the continuing decline in social mobility and the increase in the gap between rich and poor (nothing to do with a party that regards notional equality so highly that stretching the most able towards top jobs is left to those who can afford to Public Schools or those whose parents are prepare can move to a better catchment area.)

    He will though, be a hard act to counter – the siren voice of Newness, untainted by past failure, but also untainted by any self doubt – will win over many. We will have to work very hard and use up a lot of our political capital to put right the total mess his party’s term in office has got us into. But we can’t afford to let all that effort result in failure at the next election, due to Ed simply saying “It wasn’t me and my party.”

    It was Ed. It was.

  • Clem the Gem 29th Sep '10 - 2:15pm

    Err, AV was in the Labour Party’s last manifesto – written in large part by Ed Milliband, so electoral reform was not only on the agenda because of your coalition.
    Ed entered Parliament in 2005, and has spent much of that time as a member of the Government – so he did not have a free vote on issues such as Civil Liberties. Interestingly enough, Lib Dem cabinet ministers may very well be voting for measures deemed illiberal, even if they disagree with them – such as the reduction of MPs, or the redistribution of seats with little or no local input. Hardly a liberal move, and in both cases justified on economic rather than democratic grounds.
    That those of us who have supported Constitutional Reform in Labour can look forward to working on the Yes campaign with your good selves is a good thing, surely?
    http://clemthegem.wordpress.com/

  • Clem the Gem 29th Sep '10 - 2:17pm

    Some of the LD posts here look awfully tribalist to me…

  • @Dane Clouston
    “The biggest transaction is the total transfer of capital from each generation to the next.”

    Excellent proposals. Please email them to Ed Miliband.

  • @Dane Clouston

    I would never call you an “Orange Tory”

  • charliechops1 30th Sep '10 - 8:54am

    I cried, dried my eyes and cried again. But then I am a dyed in the wool social democrat and part of a dying breed – especially within the Lib Dems. What I know, to paraphrse J S Mill, is that each age must re-interpret the social democtatic challeng for itself and that the test is policy and not words. Good on you, Ed.

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